Rising tensions between the United States and China are touching new highs with the US State Department now alleging that Beijing might have conducted low-level, underground nuclear test explosions secretly despite claiming to observe an international pact that bans such tests.

First reported by the Wall Street Journal, the United States is concerned about violation of the “zero yield” standard for test blasts, after monitoring activities at China’s Lop Nur nuclear test site throughout last year. Zero yield is a nuclear test in which there is no explosive chain reaction that is usually associated with the kind that is triggered by the detonation of a nuclear warhead. 

The US State Department has stated in its report, “China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities … raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard.”

The Dragon indeed has a history of opacity when it comes to nuclear testing. For starters, Beijing blocks data transmissions from sensors linked to a monitoring centre operated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation that verifies compliance with the treaty banning nuclear test explosions.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) allows activities that are designed to maintain the safety of nuclear weapons. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation spokeswoman said that interruptions had started from Beijing in 2018, but there were no interruptions from China’s five sensor stations since August 2019.

Therefore, 2018 and 2019 could be the years when China violated the treaty. And now the Trump administration seems to be bringing it up effectively and aggressively.

China and the United States have been trading barbs ever since the Coronavirus Pandemic broke out. The already tense relations between the two biggest economies of the world deteriorated further after Beijing accused the US Army of bringing the Coronavirus to the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China.

President Trump had not taken the outlandish Chinese insinuations lightly either. He had hit back saying, “China tried to say at one point….that it was caused by American soldiers, (but) that can’t happen.” He added that it couldn’t happen as long as he was the President, while explaining that he called COVID-19 the Chinese virus, only because the virus originated in China.

China’s wet markets, mismanagement of the COVID-19 infection and coverup that started in late 2019 in Wuhan itself has cost the entire world heavily, and the United States seems to be the worst affected with over 6,78,000 confirmed cases and more than 34,000 deaths.

Even the US military has sustained quite a bit of damage, with the USS Theodore Roosevelt- an aircraft carrier of the US Navy making headlines across the world as it became a Coronavirus hotspot compelling Captain Crozier- the commanding officer of the warship to break the chain of command and get the sailors rescued.

This has also become a flashpoint between China and the United States though, as the Dragon has started flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, after both the US aircraft carriers in the Pacific- USS Roosevelt and USS Ronald Reagan got docked over several confirmed COVID-19 cases on board the naval assets.

To escalate geopolitical conflicts, when the adversary is ridden with an infection that originated in China’s wet markets in the first place is not only a highly opportunistic cheap shot, but also outright provocative.

Across the world, countries have been calling for action against China over the mismanagement of the pandemic, with Japan spending as much as US $ 2.2 Billion to get its companies to exit China, and Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) to act against China’s wet markets, like the one where the deadly Coronavirus is believed to have originated, as they pose “great risks” to the health and wellbeing of the rest of the world.

The Trump administration is no exception, and since it has been hit far more severely than say Japan, Australia or Europe, it must be considering action far more severe than others could even contemplate.

And this is where the reports of China’s secret nuclear tests violating the “zero yield” standards are quite significant. The United States is raking up reports from last year four months into the present year in a bid to press some very hard sanctions against China.

And what better excuse than clandestine nuclear tests if you want to sanction another country? The United States has been known for pressing tough sanctions over nuclear tests or the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) anyway.

Accusations of possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) have even led to toppling regimes, sanctioning is still a measure of much lower severity.

Agreed that Xi Jinping is no Sadam Hussain, and apart from Iraq, parallels cannot be drawn between China and Iran either- sanctioning China over nuclear accusations is not as simple as the “maximum pressure” policy that the United States pursues in Iran, yet the situation is ripe to push for sanctions against China.

The latest State Department reports too seem to be following a similar strategy- accusations of violations followed by hard-pressed sanctions.

Chinese misadventures have wreaked havoc across the world and now is the time that the United States can impose real sanctions on the country that might find approval from countries across the world.