By Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2020

BEIJING (AP) - China on Friday rejected any prospect of joining in nuclear arms limitation talks with the U.S., calling reports from Washington that it would do so a distortion of its stated position.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters the U.S. was “neither serious nor sincere” in the proposed negotiations and should instead respond to Russia’s call for an extension to the existing New START treaty limiting the number of nuclear warheads.

“China’s objection to the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations is very clear, and the U.S. knows it very well. However, the U.S. is persistent on the issue and even distorted China’s position,” Zhao said at a daily news briefing.

China, with the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal after the U.S. and Russia, has maintained it will not join in talks with Washington and Moscow on reducing its number of warheads. However, Zhao appeared to hold open the door to some form of discussions saying Washington needed to “create conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to participate in nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

The U.S. pointedly noted the Chinese absence at talks with Russia in Vienna two weeks ago on extending or replacing NEW Start, a 2010 arms reduction treaty that expires in February.

The pact is between the U.S. and Russia, long the world’s major nuclear powers. The Trump administration wants China, as a rising military power, to join.

Fu Cong, the director general of the Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, on Wednesday called that demand unrealistic because China has a much smaller nuclear arsenal than the other two. By inviting China to join, the U.S. is creating a pretext to walk away from the talks without replacing the treaty, he said.

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