China Says It Will Join Nuke Talks If U.S. Agrees to Cut Stockpile

A senior Chinese arms control official has offered to enter U.S.-Russia nuclear weapons treaty talks if Washington, D.C., agrees to nuclear parity with Beijing, an offer the official acknowledged will never be accepted.

Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control at China's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Beijing is open to entering discussions on the New START treaty, a U.S.-Russian deal capping the number of deployed nuclear weapons that is due to expire next year.

President Donald Trump has said they want to include China in New START renewal discussions, complaining that Beijing currently has free rein to expand its nuclear arsenal. Experts and Chinese officials have rejected the proposal as unrealistic and a smokescreen to hide the fact that the Americans do not want to extend the treaty.

Fu said Wednesday that American pressure to include China in the talks is "nothing but a ploy to divert world tension" and "create a pretext under which they can walk away from the New START," the Agence France-Presse reported.

"Their real purpose is to get rid of all the restrictions and have a free hand in seeking military superiority over any adversary, real or imagined," Fu told reporters at a news conference.

U.S. and Russian officials met last month in Vienna, Austria to discuss extending New START. The treaty is the last nuclear arms control agreement limiting the two nations' arsenals, following the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty under President George W. Bush in 2002 and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under Trump last year.

New START limited U.S. and Russian forces to 1,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs. It also capped the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers used for nuclear missions at 700. The total allowed number of deployed and non-deployed assets is 800.

Russia has repeatedly said it is willing to extend the agreement under the current terms.

Observers have warned of a new nuclear arms race if New START is allowed to lapse. The U.S. and Russia currently hold some 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, around 5,800 in the U.S. and 6,375 in Russia.

All other nuclear states have far fewer, including China with 320, France with 290 and the U.K. with 215, according to the latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Given the gulf between the two countries, Fu said the idea that the U.S. could be threatened by China does not make sense. He said Beijing will take part in talks "when their nuclear arsenals come down to a level comparable to the level of Chinese nuclear warheads."

"I can assure you that if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China will be happy to participate the next day," Fu said. "But actually, we know that it's not going to happen. We know the U.S. policy."

Newsweek has contacted the State Department to request comment on Fu's remarks.

US, China, New START, ICBM, nuclear weapons
This file photo shows a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on November 6, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/U.S. Air Force