China’s President, Xi Jinping, has added his voice to condemning nuclear threats urging Russian President, Vladimir Putin, not to use them in the conflict in Ukraine.
President Xi said the international community should “advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used, a nuclear war cannot be waged, in order to prevent a nuclear crisis”
In a significant move, Mr Xi also echoed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by calling on the world to “jointly oppose the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons”.
China is one of the original five nuclear-armed states and has the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. Responding to the Chinese leader’s remarks, the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Beatrice Fihn, said: “This is a very welcome move. By calling on all countries to oppose the use of and threats to use nuclear weapons, President Xi is endorsing key parts of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, so we look forward to China supporting the TPNW.”
President Xi made the remarks during a meeting with German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who is the first western leader to visit China since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Scholz also met China’s Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, and, referring to the war in Ukraine, Mr Li said: “We cannot afford any further escalation … both of us … hope the crisis ends soon”.
The TPNW provides a legal structure to eliminate nuclear weapons, as well as a mechanism to delegitimise them, and the condemnation of nuclear threats by world leaders serves to strengthen the delegitmisation of these weapons of mass destruction.
More and more states are joining the treaty, which now has 91 signatories and 68 member states, but so far none of the nuclear-armed states have joined the treaty, but the statements from China’s top leadership give grounds for hope that situation will change.