(Reuters) – China has made “impressive progress” in developing new nuclear weapons, but will only use them for self-defense and will never use them first, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe told reporters on Sunday. Shangri-La Dialogue delegates.

In response to a question about last year’s reports of the construction of more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in eastern China, he said that China “has always followed a proper path to develop capabilities nuclear weapons for the protection of our country”.

He added that nuclear weapons displayed at a military parade in Beijing in 2019 – which included upgraded launchers for China’s DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles – were operational and deployed.

“China has been developing its capabilities for more than five decades. It’s fair to say that there has been impressive progress,” he said. “China’s policy … is consistent. We use it for self-defense. We won’t be the first to use nuclear (weapons).”

He said the ultimate goal of China’s nuclear arsenal is to prevent nuclear war.

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“We have developed nuclear capabilities to protect the hard work of the Chinese people and protect our people from the scourge of nuclear war,” he said.

Last year, the US State Department called China’s nuclear buildup concerning and said it appeared Beijing was moving away from decades of nuclear strategy based on minimal deterrence. He called on China to engage with him “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races”.

(Reporting by Chen Lin. Writing by Gerry Doyle; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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