Chinese soldiers stand guard over a model of a nuclear warhead in a nuclear lab in China's northwestern Qinghai province. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese soldiers stand guard over a model of a nuclear warhead in a nuclear lab in China's northwestern Qinghai province. Photo: Xinhua

Beijing says its commitment to global non-proliferation is evident in its hefty investment in monitoring stations that will help better track nuclear activities in the region, including Pyongyang’s nuclear tests.

A certification-cum-inauguration ceremony of four new stations – in Beijing, Hailar in northeastern China, Guangzhou in southern China and Lanzhou in the northwestern province of Gansu – was held on Tuesday in Guangzhou, after they were certified under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty last year, Xinhua reported.

“The global monitoring system under the CTBT mainly uses four methods to detect possible nuclear activities – [seismic], radionuclide, underwater sound and infrasound,” Li Bin, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the International Studies Institute at Tsinghua University, was quoted as saying.

Two of the four new stations feature radionuclide technology and the other two use seismic technology, and all are part of the global system under the CTBT to monitor potential nuclear tests around the world.

The Beijing and Hailar stations will be the closest to North Korea, which launched a series of nuclear tests mainly at its northeastern Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site less than 100 kilometers from the border with China’s Jilin province, in defiance of international sanctions and a trade embargo.

Pyongyang claimed in September that it had detonated an H-bomb, whose shock waves were recorded by a number of seismic stations throughout the region.

Residents in China’s northeastern provinces have become jittery about possible nuclear spillovers should Pyongyang’s experiments go wrong.

A satellite mage of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site that is less than 100 kilometers from China’s Jilin province. Photo: Reuters

Beijing has also joined international condemnation and sanctions after Pyongyang chose to cling to its nuclear program.

Chinese state media have not minced words in related reports that a total of 11 CTBT-certified observation facilities to be built throughout the nation are for detecting nuclear activities in neighboring countries including North Korea.

Analysts suspect Beijing would rather rely on its own facilities to monitor North Korea’s nuclear tests and arsenal rather than waiting for notification from Pyongyang, a clue of Beijing’s mistrust and that the ties between the two Communist allies are wearing thinner than ever.

Meanwhile, Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization, hailed China’s contribution to the global cause of non-proliferation.

China became a CTBT founding signatory in 1996, and now the treaty includes 183 members. The last time China conducted its own nuclear experiment was on July 29, 1996.

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