Russia, US to Hold Nuclear Disarmament Talks This Month, China Declines to Join

June 11, 2020 Updated: June 11, 2020

The United States and Russia have confirmed that they will hold talks for nuclear disarmament on June 22 in Vienna without China after the communist regime declined to participate in the talks.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed on June 9 that he would hold strategic stability talks with U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea in Vienna on June 22 “in the bilateral Russia-U.S. format.”

China was also invited to join the talks, but it declined the invitation, Billingslea said on June 9. “China just said it has no intention to participate in trilateral negotiations,” Billingslea wrote on Twitter.

He said China should reconsider its decision. “Achieving Great Power status requires behaving with Great Power responsibility,” he wrote. “No more Great Wall of Secrecy on its nuclear build-up. Seat waiting for China in Vienna.”

The spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs later responded on Twitter, saying: “The U.S. has been dragging China into the issue of the New START extension whenever that issue is raised. This is just what the U.S. does when it wants to deflect responsibilities to others.”

Ryabkov said at a video conference held by the Council on Foreign Relations that he didn’t believe it would be possible to convince China to join the negotiations on nuclear disarmament, according to Radio Free Europe.

Russia and the United States together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s total nuclear warheads, according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, which tallied 6,490 warheads for Russia and 6,185 for the United States. It counted China as having 290 nuclear warheads.

“Chinese officials now openly speak of ‘national rejuvenation’ objectives that include the ‘Strong Military Dream’ of ensuring that Beijing’s armed forces acquire world-class capabilities superior to those of anyone else on the planet by 2049,” wrote Christopher Ford, U.S. State Department assistant secretary for nonproliferation and international security, in the May 20 release of the Arms Control and International Security papers (pdf).

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Military vehicles carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2019. (Thomas Peter/File Photo/Reuters)

The State Department said in a statement on April 10, “President Trump has charged this administration with beginning a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control that moves beyond the bilateral treaties of the past.”

The only U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control agreement still in force and binding the two countries is the New START Treaty, which was signed in 2010 and is set to expire in February 2021. The treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons that each country can deploy, and both Russia and the United States comply with these limits, according to data exchanged on March 1.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 2 endorsed Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which allows the country to use atomic weapons, not only in response to a nuclear attack, but also to respond to conventional strikes targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced on June 2 two new bills aimed to constrain both Russia and China in their efforts to develop and modernize their strategic nuclear arsenals.

“Without a firm foundation that constrains our adversaries’ nuclear arsenals, the United States may once again find itself in a costly arms race with little opportunity to reduce nuclear risks with both Russia and China,” Menendez said.

The first bill, the Future of Arms Control Act, calls for the immediate extension of New START and prevents the president from taking any action against the treaty if no decision is made on its extension, Menendez said in the statement.

The second bill, the Arms Control with China Policy Act, mandates secretaries of state and defense to present to Congress a report on methods to engage China on arms control.

The United States tested an intermediate-range missile in California on Aug. 19, 2019. (Defense Department)
The United States tested an intermediate-range missile in California on Aug. 19, 2019. (Defense Department)

Other Arms Control Treaties

In August 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia because Russia had failed to comply, including failing to comply with requests to destroy its 9M729 ballistic missiles.

The United States recently submitted a notice to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, citing Russian violations, according to a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The treaty permits its participants to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the other’s territories.

“Should Russia return to full compliance with the treaty,” the United States will reconsider its participation in the Open Skies Treaty, the statement said.