November 25, 2020

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China to skip US-Russian nuclear disarmament talks

China has declined to join US-Russian nuclear disarmament talks in Vienna on June 22, accusing Washington of issuing a “surreal” invite. Russia had already indicated it did not expect China to agree to join the talks.

China is not interested in participating in nuclear disarmament talks with the US and Russia, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.

“We noticed that the US has been dragging China into this issue … whenever it is raised,” Hua said, adding that Washington’s claims that it wanted to negotiate in good faith “feel extremely ridiculous and even surreal.” 

The talks, scheduled for June 22 in Vienna, will involve US envoy Marshall Billingslea and Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

In recent years, US President Donald Trump has pulled out of major treaties, including a key Cold War-leftover, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

And last month, his administration quit the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed the USA, Russia and 32 other nations to conduct foreign surveillance flights. 

The Trump administration had since suggested bringing China into fresh talks on nuclear disarmament, to seek a three-way agreement, rather than one between the owners of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. China alluded to such developments, and accused the US of trying to “deflect responsibilities to others” by seeking to fold in Beijing.

Russia skeptical, and open to larger forum

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow’s answer to an inclusion of China in Vienna currently was a “flat and straightforward no” unless the US opened a “meaningful” dialog with Russia on arms control.

Beijing had to first agree, said Ryabkov, adding that US allies and smaller nuclear powers Britain and France could join such future talks.

“The ball is on the American part of the court,” Ryabkov told the US Council of Foreign Relations during a video conference from Moscow.

“The logic is a very simple one — the more we come down in numbers, the higher is the price for every single warhead payload and we cannot simply ignore capabilities of some others,” he said.

US accuses China of warhead secrecy

Addressing the Hudson Institute last month, Marshall Billingslea said Trump was “not interested in agreements simply for agreements’ sake.”

Billingslea accused China of staying secret about its growing arsenal “to intimidate the United States and our friends and allies.”

According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, more than 6,000 nuclear warheads were each held by the United States and Russia in 2019.

China had 290, France 300 and Britain 200, said the research group, with smaller arsenals maintained by India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

ipj/aw (AFP, AP, dpa) (DW)