İçeriğe geçmek için "Enter"a basın

China Quietly Rebuilds Secretive Base for Nuclear Tests

In the desert in East Turkistan, China’s drilling rig has recently drilled a deep vertical well, and China has expanded its work in the field. China may be preparing to test a new generation of nuclear weapons that could increase the lethality of its rapidly expanding missile force.

By William J. Broad, Chris Buckley and Jonathan Corum 

In the remote desert where China detonated its first atom bomb nearly 60 years ago, a drilling rig recently bored a deep vertical shaft that is estimated to plunge down at least a third of a mile. It is the strongest evidence yet that Beijing is weighing whether to test a new generation of nuclear arms that could increase the lethality of its rapidly expanding missile force.

For years, U.S. government reports and independent experts have expressed vague concerns about the old base, Lop Nur. The reports point to possible preparations for year-round operations and a “lack of transparency.”

Now, however, waves of satellite images reveal that the military base has newly drilled boreholes — ideal for bottling up firestorms of deadly radiation from large nuclear blasts — as well as hundreds of other upgrades and expansions.

“All the evidence points to China making preparations that would let it resume nuclear tests,” said Tong Zhao, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, described Lop Nur’s rebuilding as unusual. “The Russians and Americans have continued activity at their test sites,” he said, “but nothing like this.”

Analysts say the activity at Lop Nur signals a wide modernization of China’s nuclear establishment, warning that it could speed arms buildups and spark a new age of atomic rivalry.

They add that China’s moves, along with those of other nuclear powers, could undermine the global test ban that began in 1996. The world’s atomic powers signed it after the Cold War as a way to curb a costly nuclear arms race that was spinning out of control.

The new evidence at Lop Nur was uncovered by Renny Babiarz, a former analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, an arm of the Pentagon. An expert on satellite reconnaissance as well as Beijing’s nuclear program, Dr. Babiarz says that detonations in the deep shafts could accelerate an effort to perfect new types of nuclear arms for the country’s fast-growing arsenal. Independent experts who have examined the satellite imagery and Dr. Babiarz’s analyses share his concerns.

The activity at Lop Nor comes at one of the most sensitive moments in U.S.-China relations. President Biden has said he’s trying to “stabilize” an increasingly contentious relationship and, at a summit meeting last month with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, sought a measure of accord.

American intelligence officials say they’ve followed Lop Nur’s revival for years. While the construction is obvious, they say, its purpose is not. China could be preparing for a nuclear test, they concede. But they add that Mr. Xi may not intend to move ahead unless the United States or Russia go first. The officials say Mr. Xi could be hedging his bets, drilling the deep vertical shafts so that, if necessary, China can act quickly.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing responded to questions about upgrades at Lop Nur, dismissing them in a statement as “clutching at shadows, groundlessly whipping up a ‘China nuclear threat.’” It called such claims “utterly irresponsible.”

The ministry also emphasized Beijing’s commitment to observing the nuclear test ban — a position, it added, that “has won high praise from the international community.” China, it said, will spare “no effort to realize the noble aspiration of comprehensively banning and totally eradicating nuclear weapons.” … …

Read the rest of the article from the New York Times

İlk yorum yapan siz olun

    Bir yanıt yazın

    E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir