Japan has urged China to cut its nuclear arsenal or at least to stop stockpiling more atomic weapons, prompting a strong reaction from Beijing at their foreign ministers’ talks, officials said Sunday.
The rare demand came when Japanese Foreign minister Katsuya Okada met his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi at regional talks in South Korea Saturday, said Kazuo Kodama, the press secretary of Japan’s foreign ministry.
The Japanese minister said China was the only one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — which also includes the United States, Britain, France and Russia — that was still accumulating nuclear weapons.
“Amongst the P5, it is only China which is increasing its nuclear arsenal,” Okada told Yang during the talks on Saturday, according to Kodama.
“Therefore I would like to request the Chinese government either to reduce the number of nuclear arsenals or at least commit ourselves not to increase its nuclear arsenals from the current level,” he quoted Okada as saying.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement on Sunday Yang had repudiated Okada’s remarks and defended Beijing’s nuclear policy.
“Foreign minister Yang Jiechi refuted the irresponsible remarks by Japan on the spot,” Ma said in the statement.
“He pointed out that China’s nuclear strategy and nuclear policy is transparent. China’s nuclear disarmament proposals and efforts are obvious. China’s position is legitimate, transparent, and above reproach.”
Yang emphasized China always advocates that nuclear weapons should be completely forbidden and destroyed completely, and it also firmly pursues a nuclear strategy of self-defence, Ma said.
China was the only nuclear-armed country that adhered to the no-first-use policy and promised unconditionally not to use or threaten to use such weapons against nuclear-free states or nuclear-free regions, Ma cited Yang as saying.
Yang stressed China never took part in any nuclear arms race and never deployed any nuclear weapons in other countries, while maintaining its nuclear power at the lowest level needed for its security, according to Ma.
Yang had also said he hoped Okada would put first their two countries’ bilateral ties and the fundamental interests of their peoples, Ma added.
Seoul’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, said Chinese officials felt “uncomfortable” with Okada’s demand and even considered boycotting part of the programme at the talks in the southern city of Gyeongju.
Okada and Yang arrived in Gyeongju on Saturday to attend the two-day foreign ministerial meeting with South Korean host Yu Myung-Hwan.
The three foreign ministers discussed issues including the growing tension over the sinking of a South Korean warship near the border with North Korea on March 26, which has led to suspicion falling on the communist North.