West warned of risk of miscalculating into nuclear war with China, Russia

Chad Bray, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jul 29 2022 03:01 AM | Updated as of Jul 29 2022 10:59 AM

Britain, allies have ‘clear concerns’ about China’s nuclear modernization program

DF-31 nuclear missile weapon system EPA-EFE
A soldier stands beside a DF-31 nuclear missile weapon system on display during an exhibition at the Military Museum to celebrate the People's Republic of China army's 90th anniversary in Beijing, China, July 27, 2017. EPA-EFE/WU HONG/FILE

Stephen Lovegrove, Britain’s national security adviser, has warned the West needs to establish better communication with China and Russia or risk miscalculating its way into a nuclear war.

In a speech to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Lovegrove said the world is entering a “dangerous new age of proliferation”, where technological advancements are increasing the potential damage of weapons and making those weapons systems more widely available.

Britain and its allies have “clear concerns” about China’s nuclear modernisation programme, which will increase both the number and types of nuclear weapon systems in its arsenal, Lovegrove said.

“During the Cold War, we benefited from a series of negotiations and dialogues that improved our understanding of Soviet doctrine and capabilities – and vice versa,” Lovegrove said in the speech delivered virtually to the American think tank.

“This gave us both a higher level of confidence that we would not miscalculate our way into nuclear war. Today, we do not have the same foundations with others who may threaten us in the future – particularly with China.”

Many of the existing arms control agreements are “designed for a world that no longer exists”, created for a “bipolar conflict” and not providing coverage of “dangerous new and emerging technologies”.

A more integrated approach to arms control is required across a variety of areas of proliferation to reduce the risk of a future nuclear conflict, Lovegrove said.

“We must acknowledge that existing nuclear states are investing in novel nuclear technologies and developing new ‘warfighting’ nuclear systems, which they are integrating into their military strategies and doctrines and into their political rhetoric to seek to coerce others,” he said.

China, Russia and the US are all developing hypersonic missile technology that can manoeuvre in the air and avoid traditional missile defence systems. China recently simulated a flight from Jinan, the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army Northern Theatre, to New York.

In March, Russia used nuclear-capable Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles to strike targets in Ukraine, making it the first nation to use hypersonic weapons in warfare.

Lovegrove’s speech came just ahead of an upcoming phone call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which Biden is expected to press his counterpart on Beijing’s “excessive maritime claims” in the South China Sea.

The two also are expected to discuss tensions over Taiwan, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly expected to visit next month, and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Britain “strongly supports” the Biden-Xi call, which is expected in the coming days.

“Trust and transparency built through dialogue should also mean that we can be more active in calling out non-compliance and misbehaviours when we see it,” Lovegrove said.


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