South China Sea chaos: How fears of ‘China nuclear test’ fooled Putin


SOUTH CHINA SEA militarisation has led many in the region to fear conflict between China and the US, which might be why a fake news story about a supposed Chinese nuclear bomb test fooled many around the world, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

An extreme radio host in the US posted a fake news story on his website claiming that Beijing had exploded a nuclear bomb in the South China Sea region. The publisher attributed the article to “military sources”, but a Pentagon spokesperson in the US called the story “silly fiction”, and the website at the centre of the fake news story tweeted an apology saying the story “might not be credible”.

The fake news culprit cited ‘uRADMonitor Global Network for Environmental Monitoring’, claiming that increased radiation pointed to the explosion.

The story was retweeted 2000 times, reaching millions across the world.

This included the Russian government, who even released a statement citing the exact same source as the original poster of the fake news story: the uRADMonitor Global Network for Environmental Monitoring.

The statement made on November 22 read: “According to information received from the Global Network for Environmental Monitoring in the South China Sea, an increase in the level of radiation background in connection with a radiation incident has been recorded.”

As James Conca highlights in his article for Forbes, radiation levels can be tracked in real time as well as the pressure waves caused by a nuclear detonation, even in water.

Mr Conca, a scientist in the field of earth and environmental sciences for 33 years, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO) runs the most sophisticated worldwide monitoring system aimed at identifying nuclear explosions.

Given that Russia has access to this technology, it remains unclear why Moscow did not refer to this source to verify the account of the fake news story.

The pacific region has seen huge explosions in the past, but from the US rather than China.

The US was engaged in a Cold War nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union to build more advanced bombs from 1947 until 1991. As part of its nuclear weapons testing, the US went to Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean.

The first series of explosive tests were undertaken in 1946 at Bikini Atoll region under the code name ‘Operation Crossroads’, and the first test was dropped from 520ft, detonating above its target.

The second test, nicknamed ‘Baker’, forming a huge cloud of explosion as it struck its target ships with devastating effect.

Eight years later in 1954, the second round of tests were undertaken by the US military.

Codenamed ‘Operation Castle’, the tests would prove yet more monstrous than the previous detonations. The detonation of ‘Castle Bravo’ saw a thermonuclear bomb dropped near Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

The explosion was measured at 15 megatons, and created a blast 1000 times more powerful than the deadly Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions of 1945, which ultimately led to Japan’s surrender from World War 2.