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China again declines to join arms-control talks with US, Russia

Xi Jinping delivers a report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on behalf of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 28, 2017. (Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

China has reiterated its refusal to participate in three-way disarmament talks with the United States and Russia ahead of a new round of arms-control talks between Washington and Moscow scheduled for June 22 in Vienna.

The United States had voiced hopes that Russia could convince China to join the negotiations about limiting the three countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on June 10 that Beijing hadn’t changed its previous stance that it was not going to join the talks.

“We noticed that the United States has been dragging China into the issue…whenever it is raised,” with the intention of deflecting from its responsibility, Hua said.

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President Donald Trump has in recent years pulled out of a number of international agreements, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Iran nuclear deal.

The Trump administration, however, voiced a general interest in preserving New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which obliges the United States and Russia to halve their inventories of strategic nuclear-missile launchers. The treaty expires in February 2021.

But Washington is seeking to broaden the accord into a three-way deal that would also include China, whose nuclear arsenal remains significantly smaller than those of Moscow and Washington.

Hua, speaking in Beijing, said U.S. claims that it wanted to negotiate in good faith “feel extremely ridiculous and even surreal.”

China’s rebuttal of Washington’s overtures came after Russia also warned that U.S. insistence on including China could scuttle efforts.

Moscow called on the United States on June 9 to make a “positive” proposal ahead of the Vienna meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. envoy Marshall Billingslea on New START.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations by videoconference, Ryabkov said, “My answer to a direct question on whether or not we think it would be possible to bring China to the table would be a flat and straightforward no.”

“We need to hear loudly and clearly what this administration wants, how it believes it would be possible to do something positive and not just to dismantle one arms-control treaty or arrangement after another,” Ryabkov said.

He added that U.S. allies Britain and France, also nuclear powers with much smaller arsenals, should join the talks.

The United States and Russia each had more than 6,000 nuclear warheads in 2019, while China had 290, according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

France had 300 and Britain possessed 200, with India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea maintaining smaller arsenals, according to the research group.