The United States has warned China that it will be sanctioned if it builds nuclear power stations near its coastlines.
The warning comes after Beijing said it is ready to cooperate with the United States on a “full-scale” nuclear energy plan.
It was not immediately clear when the US was planning to announce the sanctions, but it is likely to come in the near future, according to the White House.
“It is clear that China’s new policy of developing its nuclear weapons and its intention to build nuclear plants close to the US coast is dangerous and a threat to regional security,” the White house said in a statement.
“The United States and the international community must make it clear to China that these actions will not go unanswered.”
The White House said that the US is “looking for any steps that China can take to reduce the risks of a nuclear exchange between the United Nations and its neighbors, as well as the risks that might be created by the Chinese actions in the South China Sea”.
“We are also concerned about the increased risks of nuclear proliferation that the Chinese are attempting to impose on other countries by building new nuclear power and missile sites in disputed waters, or through actions that threaten to destabilise the region,” the statement added.
China’s foreign ministry said it “strongly opposes” the US move and said that Beijing was “very concerned” by Washington’s move.
“China is ready for the United Kingdom to clarify the issue of nuclear power plant locations, which are clearly within China’s sovereign territory, and will be willing to help them in this matter,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing.
China has made similar claims about the disputed waters around the South East Asian country.
“We have no intention of putting nuclear plants on our land, and we do not intend to build any such facilities,” Hong said.
China is the world’s second-largest nuclear power user after the US, after the United Arab Emirates.
China had previously said it would build nuclear reactors at two sites near its western coast.
But the Chinese government said that its intentions were different.
“In order to reduce and eliminate the risk of a potential nuclear war, the nuclear energy programme of China is to focus on developing new energy sources that are peaceful and non-hazardous, and that are safe and environmentally sustainable,” the foreign ministry’s statement said.
“Furthermore, the government has developed a comprehensive plan to develop new energy technology and a nuclear power programme, which will allow the country to achieve a comprehensive and stable nuclear energy program in the future.”