Introduction:China acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) in 1992 and is the only NWS that has ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol. The Chinese nuclear program started in the mid-1950s. In 1964, China conducted its first nuclear weapon test. China possesses some 240 nuclear warheads.
Although China has sponsored many disarmament resolutions in the United Nations, it is proceeding with modernizing its nuclear arsenal, in addition to increasing its military capabilities. Despite promises to do so, China has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and continues to maintain its nuclear test site. Many analysts attribute China’s nuclear modernization efforts to the US development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses, which undermine China’s minimum deterrence capacity.
China’s role as a proliferator to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and 1990s prompted the United States to exert pressure on the country to adhere to international nonproliferation treaties, and especially export controls regime. Even though China is still not member to regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), it managed to close the major gaps in its domestic export controls regulations by 2002.
Acting as a mediator between the United States and North Korea, China has been one of the main players in the Six-Party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
A new version of the 123 agreement under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 is currently being drafted. It would give China leeway to buy US nuclear energy technology. Negotiations over the agreement have persuaded China to agree to controls on technology and materials that are tighter than those currently in the accord.
Weapons experts also currently note that China already has enough surplus highly-enriched uranium and plutonium to make hundreds of new bombs.
On April 24, 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against China at the International Court of Justice for violation of customary international law regarding the obligation to negotiate for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. The case is expected to last into at least 2016.
- Joint Statement by the US and China on Missile Proliferation and Stopping Production of Fissile Materials, October 4, 1994
- Proliferation and US-China Nuclear Cooperation by Senator Sam Brownback, October 8, 1997
- China: Suspected Acquisition of U.S. Nuclear Weapon Secrets Congressional Research Service, Updated 20 December 2000
- China's WMD proliferation activities, from CIA's biannual "Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Advanced Conventional Munitions" 1 January Through 30 June 2003
- Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China Department of Defense, 2004
- Chinese White Paper On Nonproliferation Policy and Measures, April 2004
- China and Multilateral Non-Proliferation Mechanisms, June 29, 2004
- China's Non-Proliferation Policy and Related Export Control Mechanisms, June 29, 2004
- China's Record of Proliferation Activities Testimony by Assistant Secretary for Verification and Compliance Paula A. De Sutter before the U.S.-China Commission, 24 July 2004
- Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons: Working paper submitted by China, 2005 NPT Conference, May 2005
- Nuclear disarmament and reduction of the danger of nuclear war: Working paper submitted by China, 2005 NPT Conference, May 2005
- Opening Statement, H.E. Mr. Zhang Yan, Director General for the Arms Control Department. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2005 NPT Conference, 3 May 2005
- RMI v. People's Republic fo China
- Nuclear Regulatory Legislation, September 2013
- US-China Nuclear Cooperations Agreement, April 2015