US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about refugee programs for Afghans who have helped the US during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski | Reuters

America’s top diplomat expressed concern to Southeast Asian foreign ministers about China’s growing nuclear arsenal, the State Department said on Friday.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken presented a list of provocative Chinese behavior to the ASEAN Regional Forum, an online meeting of more than 20 countries.

“The Secretary of State also expressed deep concern about the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal, which shows how much Beijing has deviated from its decades-long nuclear strategy based on minimal deterrence,” said State Spokesman Ned Price, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

A report by the American Federation of Scientists last month concluded that Beijing was building more than 100 missile silos in its Xinjiang region, raising questions about China’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that China has about 350 of the world’s atomic bombs, a fraction of the United States’ 5,550 and Russia’s 6,255.

Blinken also warned of the violent military regime in Burma and of human rights violations in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Last month, the Biden government warned Hong Kong and Xinjiang companies of extensive regulatory risks as China continued to restrict political and economic freedoms in the region.

Blinken also urged China to stop provocative behavior in the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea.

The South China Sea, home to more than 200 swaths of land, serves as the gateway to global sea routes, which trade nearly $ 4 trillion annually. More than $ 1 trillion of this is tied to the US market. The ocean is also home to an estimated $ 2.6 trillion of recoverable offshore oil and gas.

Five plaintiffs – China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – occupy nearly 70 controversial reefs and islets in the South China Sea. Over the years, claimants have built and expanded around 90 outposts on these controversial traits, research by CSIS ‘Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative shows.

The numerous overlapping sovereignty claims on the land have made it a home for military outposts. Beijing owns the lion’s share of these land features, with about 27 in the entire area.

Beijing’s interest in developing the country across the South China Sea is by no means new.

China first owned Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef in 1988 and has since equipped them with deep water ports, aircraft hangars, communications facilities, administrative offices and a 10,000-foot runway.