Russia says it won’t press China now to join nuclear weapons talks, despite U.S. urging, even as officials from Washington and Moscow prepare to discuss the fate of the last major arms control accord before it expires early next year.
“My answer to whether it’d be possible to bring China to the table would be a flat and straightforward no,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Tuesday. “We do not see any Chinese readiness to do so. We do not anticipate that this approach will change anytime soon. And we do not intend to use whatever tools in our capacity to change this because it’s a sovereign choice of any country.”
The U.S. and Russia are sending senior officials to Vienna on June 22 for a new round of arms-control talks, but the Trump administration contends Moscow should help bring China into future negotiations to limit all three countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles. Russia is arguing that it would be better to concentrate first on extending the U.S.-Russia New Start treaty before it expires in February.
Only then, Ryabkov argued, would it be worthwhile to consider broader nuclear talks with the U.S., China, Russia and several other nations.
Ryabkov, who spoke at an event hosted by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, will represent Russia at this month’s Vienna meeting with Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control.
The U.S. insistence that China, with its small but growing nuclear arsenal, participate in future arms accords may lead to a failure to renew or extend New Start, marking the effective end of decades of agreements aimed at limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. A key treaty on intermediate-range nuclear missiles collapsed last year after the U.S. quit that accord, accusing Russia of non-compliance.
While the U.S. has invited China to the talks in Vienna, its attendance isn’t a precondition, a senior U.S. official said on Monday. China repeated Tuesday that it has no intention of participating.
“China has repeatedly stated its position,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing. “We have no intention to participate in the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations with the U.S. and Russia. That’s consistent and clear.”
Even a willingness to consider a New Start extension marks a concession by the Trump administration, which had previously rebuffed Russian calls to open such talks. The 10-year-old treaty, the last one capping the nuclear forces of the former Cold War foes, has an option to renew for a further five years with the agreement of both parties.
Billingslea, who has been nominated as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, indicated previously that the U.S. has a list of demands on Russia as well as China for a broader arms control agreement. That would include getting Russia to agree to stricter verification measures along with a major new demand: that any future arms-control regime has to include all nuclear weapons, not just strategic warheads.
Trump administration officials have insisted on China joining the talks because they believe that while the country has far fewer nuclear arms than the U.S. and Russia, it is in the middle of what they call a major buildup.
“China needs to be a part of this — stop hiding behind the Great Wall of Secrecy,” Billingslea wrote in a tweet on May 21. “Seeking great power status means assuming great power responsibility. No secretive, unconstrained nuclear buildup.”
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