Geopolitics

Moves to ease nuclear standoff between China and the US

Washington aims to ‘engage Beijing on nuclear arms control’ after signing New START Treaty extension with Russia

There is nothing like mutual destruction to focus the mind. 

Earlier this week, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START Treaty covering nuclear arms control.

The agreement was signed just days before it expired on February 5. The ticking clock stopped.

“Extending the New START Treaty makes the United States, US allies and partners, and the world safer. An unconstrained nuclear competition would endanger us all,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal,” he added.

Dealing with the threat of nuclear proliferation is an issue that President Joe Biden’s administration is willing to discuss with Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party.

Practically everything else is off-limits, like the silos full of ICBMs.

The facts:

  • Relations between the US and China are still stuck in the freezer after the Donald Trump administration.
  • Predatory trade practices, human rights and the militarization of the South and East China Seas are major concerns for Washington.
  • So are allegations that ethnic Uighur Muslim women have been subject to “rape, sexual abuse and torture” in Xinjiang internment camps.
  • A US State Department spokeswoman said the reports were “deeply disturbing,” adding, “these atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”
  • The oppression of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is another flashpoint along with China’s threats to invade the democratic island of Taiwan if it declares independence.
  • But the White House has made it clear it will “engage” Beijing on “nuclear proliferation.”

What was said: “The United States will seek to engage China on nuclear arms control and risk reduction. I hope that China will join us in that effort,” Robert Wood, the US ambassador to the United Nations who was involved in the New START Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission, said.

Reaction to the news: “If China is going to join the ‘New START’ in the future, Beijing needs to adjust its strategic weapons development direction. For example, no more long-range strategic bombers and ICBMs, which may be cut,” Zhou Chenming, of the Yuan Wang Military Science and Technology Institute in Beijing, said as reported by the South China Morning Post.

China Factor comment: During the past decade, China has rapidly updated its nuclear arsenal and become a major military power. A bristling array of hardware includes the Dongfeng-41, a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile containing 10 warheads. With a range of 14,000 kilometers or 8,699 miles, it can reach the entire US. Sitting down to talks makes a great deal of sense.

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