May 28, 2018

The big picture: China sprints to catch up in U.S.-Russia arms race

Dave Lawler, author of World

Xi Jinping reviews Chinese troops in 2017. Photo: Xinhua/Li Gang via Getty Images

China is conducting an average of five simulated tests per month as it develops a more advanced nuclear arsenal, the South China Morning Post reportsthat’s about five times as many tests as the U.S. typically conducts.

Why it matters: Russia is also stepping up its nuclear weapons program, with Vladimir Putin claiming to have developed an "unstoppable" nuclear missile and President Trump warning of a new "arms race." China is entering that race as it builds up its military strength and seeks to solidify its superpower status.

The big picture: Like the U.S., China is developing smaller nuclear warheads designed to strike specific targets. But experts told the Post that leaders might actually be willing to countenance the use of smaller nuclear weapons — raising the risk of nuclear war.

  • "The use of small warheads will lead to the use of bigger ones," Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Post.

From the scene: "In tunnels deep under mountains in Mianyang, southwestern Sichuan province, where China’s main nuclear design facilities are based, loud blasts from these experiments can be heard more than once a week."

  • "In comparison, between 2003 and 2017, the US fired a total of 150 simulated shots at its Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (Jasper) facility at the Nevada National Security Site."

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Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

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Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.