US says it hopes for arms control talks ‘soon’ with China

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The United States hopes to launch arms control talks soon with China, which is expanding its nuclear arsenal and fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, a senior US State Department official said on Thursday, without giving a timeline.

China is expected to double its nuclear missile arsenal in the next few years, whereas the United States and Russian Federation have made deep cuts in their stockpiles, he said.

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US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed at a virtual meeting last month to look into the possibility of arms control talks, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Nov. 16.

The senior US official said Xi and Biden seemed to agree in their November call on the urgency of such a dialogue.

“So I am optimistic that this will get started soon, but I can’t tell you exactly when or at what level,” he told reporters in Geneva without specifying the framework or scope of the communication over the issue.

He said: “China is building a larger, more diverse nuclear arsenal as evidenced by the silo construction under way and the novel delivery systems it is developing. We believe that the Chinese nuclear arsenal could double in the next few years.”

Washington has repeatedly urged China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.

China has welcomed the US-Russian dialogue but Li Song, China’s disarmament ambassador in Geneva, told reporters in October it was not interested in “so-called trilateral arms control and disarmament.”

China says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia, and that it is ready for dialogue, but only if Washington reduces its nuclear stockpile to China’s level.

Li said China was not seeking parity with nuclear powers and that its nuclear capacity was purely for self-defense.

The United States and Russia have held two rounds of strategic stability talks in Geneva since Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in June, building on decades of dialogue.

“And yet these are still extremely difficult talks and getting more complex as technology develops,” the senior US State Department official said.

“It is going to take time to develop the same level of productive negotiations with China and that’s why we believe it is urgent to get started, at whatever level and on whatever topic,” he said.

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