BERLIN—German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he will press China to embrace arms controls during upcoming meetings in Beijing, citing the need to regulate robotic and space-based weapons that could soon shift from “science fiction” to reality.
Maas told German newspaper Die Welt that Germany would continue to press Moscow to adhere to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and said it made sense to include China in future agreements.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 20 announced plans to quit the INF Treaty, citing what he sees as Russian violations of the pact and concerns about China’s development of new weapons since it was not party to the treaty. Trump has hinted that he seeks to instead seal a trilateral deal with Russia and China.
Maas said it was imperative to create a disarmament regime that included emerging weapons systems and China.
“Space weapons and autonomous weapons will soon no longer be science fiction, but possible reality,” he told the newspaper. “We need rules that keep pace with the technological development of new weapons systems.”
Maas gave no details of his plans to visit China, but said he would use his discussions with Chinese officials in “the next days to advocate for greater transparency and arms controls.”
He said Germany remained in close discussions with the United States and its partners in NATO about the INF Treaty and wants to prevent a new arms race.
NATO foreign ministers are due to discuss the issue in December.
Maas said he had also urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to stick to the INF Treaty and be transparent about its development of new weapons, something that had not occurred to date.
China Unbound by the INF Treaty
The INF, signed by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, was intended to reduce tensions in Europe, which, at the time, was divided into communist and non-communist camps. The pact eliminated thousands of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) from the arsenals of both superpowers.
Both countries agreed to stop the production, testing, and deployment of any new cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,418 miles.
Meanwhile, unbound by the treaty, China has built up its nuclear arsenal. While China claims to possess only a few hundred warheads, international observers estimate that the true size could be in the thousands, putting it on par with the United States and Russia.
There has been growing pressure on China to join the agreement, especially following revelations in recent years of a subterranean “nuclear great wall,” consisting of tunnels able to hide as many as 3,600 nuclear missiles.
China’s Rocket Forces field a number of IRBMs and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)s. This year, the Rocket Forces deployed the Dong Feng-26 IRBM, which has a range of 1,864 to 2,485 miles and equips nuclear warheads. The DF-26 can reach critical U.S. military installations on Guam, which is part of the U.S. military’s so-called second island chain in the Pacific. That has earned the missile the moniker of “Guam Killer” or “Guam Express.”
To date, Beijing has developed eight operational nuclear-capable missile systems—with effective ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles—that are prohibited under the INF treaty, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
By Andrea Shalal. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.