The U.S. Department of Defense said its nuclear strategy seeks to "prevent Beijing from mistakenly concluding" it could gain regional territorial advantage by using its nuclear weapons.
The new policy - the first update of the Nuclear Posture Review since 2010 - pushes modernization of US nuclear weapons, infrastructure and delivery systems.
"The country that owns the world's largest nuclear arsenal, should take the initiative to follow the trend instead of going against it", China's defense ministry said on Sunday, reports BBC. John Rood, Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, said: "There is no automaticity to this policy", when asked how the United States would manage responses to cases of "extreme circumstances".
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China on Sunday criticized a US government report that cast Beijing as a potential nuclear adversary and called on Washington to reduce its own much larger arsenal and join in promoting regional stability. At its core is expanding low-yield nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile in a brief editor's note last week, China's military mouthpiece PLA Daily called for an expanded nuclear stockpile so that the country could better deter and hit back at enemy strikes at a time of geopolitical uncertainty, and as the U.S. appeared bent on a nuclear build-up.
The 2018 Nuclear Poster Review released Friday notes the US military will use "tailored deterrence" to prevent aggression and attacks across a spectrum of adversaries.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed "deep disappointment" at the plan.
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The NPR has called for nuclear weapons in the form of "low-yield" warheads that can be launched from the sky or from submarines in cruise missiles and smaller ballistic missiles.
He said the United States is playing up the threat of its nuclear strength. The 74-page report, the Pentagon's first since 2010, cast China as "a major challenge to United States interests in Asia".
The Chinese defence ministry said: "We hope that the United States will abandon its Cold War mentality, earnestly assume its special disarmament responsibilities, correctly understand China's strategic intentions and objectively view China's national defence and military build-up".
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