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Pentagon has guts, but not sincerity

15:44, May 06, 2010

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By Li Hongmei

The United States lifted the lid Monday for the first time on the figures shrouded in secrecy for more than half a century that it has a total of 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, stating the move attempts to bolster arms control efforts and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"It is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States," secretary of state Hillary Clinton was cited as saying, although she acknowledged there had been "numerous debates" inside the administration over whether to reveal the figures.

"As of September 30, 2009, the US stockpile of nuclear weapons consisted of 5,113 warheads," the Pentagon said in a statement. The number included active warheads ready for deployment at short notice and "inactive" warheads maintained at a depot in a "non-operational status," it said.

Pentagon's abrupt about-face from its secretive mood shrouding the nuclear program baffles other nuclear states, including China. But if it is given more than a passing thought, the intention behind would loom abundantly clear. At least the unveil of nuclear warheads by no means indicates Pentagon's 100 percent sincerity to contribute to building a nuclear-free world, as labeled by President Obama as his life goal, even if the courage to take such steps in itself is commendable.

What's veiled behind the unveil? A US defense official said the administration hoped more transparency from Washington would set a standard that would encourage countries to be more open. "We hope that others will follow," said the official. In particular, China is singled out to be pinned upon the hope from Washington to follow suit immediately.

The U.S. newspaper L.A. Times commented Pentagon's move is intended to ‘stimulate the countries like China,' and this is also echoed by a Pentagon official. He also explained why the U.S. cast doubt on China's nuclear figures saying China lacks transparency in its nuclear stockpile and its nuclear program has a "low visibility."

Isn't it that the true intention behind the voluntary announcement is nothing but the bait designed to "lure the snake out of its hole"? If so, should China take it, and how could China respond to it ?

If turning to the flip side of the already "transparent" US nuke program, the phony content would be laid bare. First, nobody has the actual access to finding out how much of the reliability about the number of warheads publicly declared by Pentagon. Experts doubt the actual stockpile should be far beyond the known figures. Secondly, the nuke weaponry declared by the U.S. to be dismantled is mostly out-of-date. Last, but not the least, the U.S. has never made a pledge of "no first use of nuclear weapons".

On this basis, it is now still too early to say Pentagon's nuke confession sets a beacon of hope for a nuclear-free globe. Likewise, it also takes time to prove what Pentagon has said and done thus far is in all sincerity.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."