RPI Author Hui Zhang: United States and China Expand Cooperation on Nuclear Security
Nuclear Debates in Asia project scholar Dr. Hui Zhang recently wrote an analysis piece for PacNet exploring the expanded U.S.-Chinese cooperation on nuclear security. While China was reluctant to address nuclear security challenges before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Dr. Zhang argued leaders in Beijing have moved in recent years to coordinate efforts with the United States in civilian nuclear sectors, measures to lock down military-grade nuclear material, and other venues.
Why the change in policy? According to Dr. Zhang:
The Chinese government has taken significant steps to develop and apply approaches to nuclear security and nuclear accounting in the aftermath of 9/11. One driver of Chinese improvements has been international cooperation, in particular with the US. Since the 9/11 attacks, China has actively cooperated with the US to improve its nuclear security in the civilian sector. Such cooperation should continue and grow stronger. More importantly, China-US cooperation should extend to the military sector that has custody of the largest stocks of weapon-usable fissile materials and all nuclear weapons.
At the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that increased cooperation regarding the nuclear security of one country is beneficial to all nations. As Xi pointed out, “The amount of water a bucket can hold is determined by its shortest plank. The loss of nuclear material in one country can be a threat to the whole world.” President Barack Obama has emphasized that the biggest threat to US security is the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon. The three Nuclear Security Summits have focused the top leaders in Beijing and Washington on nuclear security issues and enhanced consensus on the danger of nuclear terrorism. It is time to extend China-US cooperation on nuclear security to the military sector. Since the threat of nuclear terrorism is a top US priority, Beijing’s cooperation on the issue would benefit the Sino-US relationship. Moreover, Beijing’s active participation in building a robust global nuclear security system would improve its international image.