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Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries on Friday that the United States is concerned about the rapid growth of China's nuclear arsenal.

Why it matters: The U.S. maintains no arms control agreements with China, though Washington has repeatedly encouraged Beijing to join its efforts alongside Russia in trilateral treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  • China's current arsenal is smaller than the U.S.' and Russia's, but U.S. intelligence expects it to rapidly grow, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

What they're saying: Blinken raised the matter during a meeting with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

  • "The secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence," State spokesperson Ned Price said of the meeting, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
  • Blinken called on China to halt its provocative behavior in the South China Sea, and he raised concerns about human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The big picture: A report from the Federation of American Scientists published last month estimated that China has approximately 350 operational nuclear warheads.

  • The report further revealed that China is building a second nuclear missile silo field in the Xinjiang province from which it can launch missiles carrying warheads.

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - Podcasts

A new Cold War brewing?

The Financial Times recently reported that China launched a possible nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August. The possible missile launch drew comparisons to the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite.

But it’s complicated. China says it was a routine spacecraft test, but the launch caught U.S. intelligence by surprise, according to the Financial Times.

Is calling this a new Cold War the right way to think about it?

Axios Re:Cap talks with Axios’ China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian on what all this means for U.S.-China relations.

Oct 19, 2021 - Podcasts

Why China’s hypersonic missile test matters for the U.S.

China tested a hypersonic missile last August, according to new reporting from the Financial Times. China says it wasn't a nuclear-capable missile, but a routine spacecraft check. So how worried should we be?

  • Plus, more tension between the Joes: Biden and Manchin.
  • And, remembering former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Guests: Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Hans Nichols.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Housing slowdown threatens China's economic muscle

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China Evergrande and a growing group of Chinese housing developers are inching toward defaulting on their debt.

Why it matters: While that's unlikely to cause a crisis of Lehman proportions, as Axios’ Felix Salmon has reported, just how much China's real estate sector cools could impact the nation's role as a growth driver for companies around the world.