LONDON — China formally acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on Monday and pledged to help prevent the spread of atomic weapons and to work for nuclear disarmament.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen handed the articles of accession to British Prime Minister John Major and called the move a "major step in a process toward complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons."
Major, speaking after accepting the articles as leader of a treaty nation, said China's move is an "immensely important step" and added that the Persian Gulf War has shown the "vital importance of non-proliferation."
China, the last major nuclear power to become a signatory of the pact, had come under increasing international pressure to join the treaty, which sets guidelines for the transfer of nuclear weapons technology.
Western countries, led by the United States, have voiced fears that China may have helped other nations, including Algeria, Pakistan and Iran, with nuclear weapons programs. Beijing has denied this.