Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations expressed concern over China’s expanding nuclear arsenal, stating it poses a threat to global and regional stability. While China currently possesses approximately 350 nuclear warheads, projections indicate it could have 1,500 warheads by 2035.

China’s rapidly growing nuclear arsenal is a “concern to global and regional stability,” Group of Seven leaders said Friday after talks on nuclear disarmament in the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The SIPRI think tank estimates that China has a stockpile of around 350 nuclear warheads, a small sum when compared with the United States and Russia.

But it is growing fast, and the country could have 1,500 warheads by 2035, according to a Pentagon estimate published in November.

Since its first nuclear test in 1964, China has been content to maintain a comparatively modest arsenal and has maintained that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

But recently, under President Xi Jinping, it has begun a massive military modernization drive that includes upgrading its nuclear weapons to not only deter foes but also be able to counter-attack if deterrence fails.

G7 leaders, who earlier Friday laid wreaths at a memorial to the estimated 140,000 people killed in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, also took aim at Russia.

They also slammed proliferation, warning North Korea against “provocative actions” and urging Iran to “cease nuclear escalations.”

The document is the first time a G7 summit has produced a leaders’ statement focused on nuclear disarmament, a reflection of efforts by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima.

He has sought to push the issue up the agenda at the three-day talks, and earlier led the leaders around the Hiroshima peace museum, where they confronted evidence of the suffering inflicted by the August 6, 1945, US nuclear attack.

The leaders reiterated their commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons “with undiminished security for all,” a caution that nods to the difficulty of achieving nuclear disarmament progress in the current global security climate.

Three G7 members, the United States, Britain and France, have nuclear weapons, and the rest are protected by the US “nuclear umbrella.”

Miroslava Salazar with AFP