The US and the People’s Republic of China agreed to stop using the most advanced particle accelerator in the history of the world to build a super weapon in 2016, a top US official has said.
China is now building its own atomic weapon, the US official told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
The announcement came during a hearing by US senators on the status of US nuclear weapons, which has been a source of debate since President Donald Trump said last week that the United States would halt its support for China’s nuclear program if it doesn’t stop its production of atomic weapons.
The United States has been the world’s main supplier of weapons-grade plutonium, and China has the largest stockpile of the stuff.
China says its plutonium is for peaceful purposes, and US officials say it’s no different.
The US has about 30 tonnes of the material at its Yongbyon nuclear weapons complex, with about 20 tonnes of plutonium already in storage.
The stockpile has been under constant pressure by China’s aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Beijing claims that it needs the material for peaceful nuclear power.
Last year, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution requiring China to halt its nuclear weapons production.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since then over how to resolve the standoff, with the United State saying it will continue to supply China with plutonium.
Chinese officials say they need the plutonium to build more reactors, while Washington says the plutonium could be used to make hydrogen bombs.
China said it had completed construction of its first reactor, but said it would need to use much more uranium to achieve a full power level of 30 kilotons.
The world’s two biggest powers have been locked in a war of words since Trump made his remarks, with Trump accusing China of “weaponising” nuclear weapons to threaten US allies in the Pacific and Europe.
In November, the Pentagon said that Beijing had begun building a new type of nuclear weapon that would be capable of destroying entire cities, and the White House said China’s actions were undermining efforts to limit the country’s nuclear weapons capability.
China has vowed to retaliate against the United Kingdom, saying it is using its own weapons in the region and threatening US interests.
China also has threatened to use its military to stop the US from establishing a military presence in the South China Sea, a major waterway between Vietnam and the Philippines.