The United States has repeatedly called for China to participate in negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.

A view of a test missile launch in California on August 18, 2019.
A view of a test missile launch in California on August 18, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

China has said it would "be happy to" participate in trilateral arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia, but only if Washington was willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to Beijing's level.

Washington has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend New START, a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia that entered into force in 2011 and is due to expire in February next year.

Fu Cong, head of the arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the negotiation with former Cold War-era superpowers, given that the US nuclear arsenal is about 20 times the size of China's.

"I can assure you, if the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day," he said. "But actually, we know that's not going to happen."

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Obama-era treaty

Fu asserted that for the United States, asking China to participate in trilateral negotiations is "nothing but a ploy to divert attention" and an excuse for the United States to walk away from the New START extension.

"The real purpose is to get rid of all restrictions and have a free hand in seeking military superiority over any adversary, real or imagined," said Fu.

Fu maintained China is not "shying away from the international nuclear disarmament process" and is prepared to discuss within the framework of the United Nations Security Council's five permanent members all issues related to the reduction of nuclear risks.

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US negotiator Marshall Billingslea told reporters after the talks in Vienna that any new agreement must subject China to restrictions. He expressed hopes that others in the international community would pressure China to join the talks in the future.

“A three-way nuclear arms control deal, in our view, has the best chance of avoiding an incredibly destabilising three-way nuclear arms race,” he said.

The treaty is the last nuclear arms agreement between the two nations, after the Trump administration scrapped an intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty last year. That pact was also criticised because it did not cover China.

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Source: Reuters