Beijing: China is likely to stake out a position between the big nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear-armed countries at an international conference next month, a prominent Swedish think tank said on Monday.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report that Beijing faces pressure over its nuclear weapons modernisation after Washington and Moscow signed a treaty to cut their much bigger arsenals of atomic missiles.
For now, however, China is likely to fend off calls to formally curb its nuclear weapons development and could seek to use the conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to push back by backing demands from non-nuclear-armed states for deeper cuts from Washington and Moscow, the report said.
"China is unlikely to take part in any unilateral or multilateral (nuclear) disarmament steps in the near- to medium-term," said the report written by Bates Gill, the director of SIPRI and an expert on Chinese security policy.
"On the contrary, Chinese steps to modernise its nuclear arsenal will stand out among the world`s major nuclear weapons states," said the report.
President Barack Obama announced this month a shift in US doctrine, vowing not to use atomic weapons against non-nuclear states that abide by the NPT.
China`s awkward position
The deepening diplomacy over nuclear arms has thrown into relief China`s awkward position in atomic diplomacy -- as a member of the club of five nuclear weapons states formally accepted by the NPT, but one claiming to share many developing countries` demands and grievances with that club.
Gill said that ambivalence is likely to play out at the conference throughout much of May discussing the NPT`s future.
"Beijing will probably expect the United States in particular, but also Russia, to do much of the heavy lifting" over disarmament commitments, Gill said in an e-mail.
China is also likely to use the conference to "defend the right of non-nuclear states, and particularly developing countries, to access nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes," said the SIPRI report.
Beijing faces growing calls from Western powers to support a fresh round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear activities. Although China has been discussing possible sanctions, it has also long stressed that Iranian demands for peaceful nuclear power must also be heeded.