A decision by the United States to pursue a new breed of nuclear weapons could push China to reconsider its decades-long atomic policy, according to experts.
The U.S. Defense Department recently received a recommendation that the government develop tactical nuclear weapons with "low yield" results that can be deployed within smaller battlefield areas.
Tong Zhao, an associate in the Carnegie Endowment's Nuclear Policy Program based in Beijing, told CNBC Wednesday that this more flexible form of weapon would lower the threshold of nuclear use.
"This will be seen by China as evidence of U.S. contemplating first use of nuclear weapons in a future crisis and will encourage China to consider pursuing similar capabilities that may undermine the no-first-use policy," he said in an email.
China's "no-first-use policy" means Beijing only demands the capability to ensure the launch of a nuclear missile, after being hit first by an enemy nuclear strike.