The US accuses China of conducting nuclear tests after blaming it for the Covid-19 pandemic

The US accuses China of conducting nuclear tests after blaming it for the Covid-19 pandemic
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
  • The US accused China of conducting low-yield nuclear tests throughout 2019, but China retorted by saying that these allegations are groundless.
  • A CTBT spokesperson denied US findings that sensor data transmissions were interrupted by Beijing.
  • The US accusations are bound to inflame US-China tensions, especially after the US blamed China for the Covid-19 pandemic.
In what could further fuel the growing tension between the US and China, a new US State Department report accused China of conducting nuclear tests. If true, China could have violated an international pact that bans nuclear tests.

“China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard,” the US state department report said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, China is said to have conducted these low-level nuclear tests throughout 2019. Zero yield refers to a nuclear test in which there is no explosive chain reaction of the detonation.

The findings may worsen ties already strained relations as US already blamed them for the Covid-19 pandemic. It has said that Beijing's mishandling of a 2019 outbreak of Coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, has spread it across the world.

Both the US and China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), although neither of them has ratified it. Regardless, China promised to adhere to CTBT norms, while the US has been observing a unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests since 1992.


The US report said that Beijing was blocking data transmissions from sensors that were linked to an international monitoring centre. However, a CTBT spokesperson said that there have been no interruptions in data transmission from the five sensor stations in China, effectively suggesting that China has not violated any norms.

China says US accusations are ‘not worth refuting’

China said that the US was making false accusations, and that they were ‘not worth refuting’.

“China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed. The US criticism of China is entirely groundless, without foundation, and not worth refuting,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

US accused Russia as well of conducting nuclear tests

China is not the only country that has been accused of conducting nuclear tests in 2019. US agencies had accused Russia of conducting similar nuclear tests in May 2019. These accusations were never confirmed.

The accusations against Russia and China could be an attempt by the US to get both countries to sign an arms control treaty. Currently, the US and Russia are part of the 2010 New START treaty that will expire in February next year. The US wants China to join them.

“The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernising its stockpile is worrying, destabilising, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework,” a senior US official said, according to a report by Reuters.

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