- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2021

China is engaged in a nuclear arms buildup and is stonewalling the international community regarding its strategic weapons intentions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump’s chief arms control negotiator said Monday.

Mr. Pompeo and Marshall Billingslea, special presidential envoy for arms control, wrote in joint op-ed published Monday by Newsweek that arms control during the Cold War served both Washington and Moscow’s interests by showing transparency on nuclear arsenals. But Beijing has repeatedly resisted their invitation to join talks with Washington and Moscow on an extension of the soon-to-expire New START treaty.

“Paired with its weapons modernization, Beijing’s nuclear posture is getting more aggressive, threatening even non-nuclear neighbors and undermining confidence in its so-called ‘no first use’ policy,” they wrote. The Trump administration, they added, regards China’s “two-decades-long, asymmetric arms race” as “a core part of that challenge.”

China’s build-up “endangers the American homeland, our strategic positions in the Indo-Pacific, and our allies and partners,” they added, noting U.S. allies, partners and “even the highest levels of the Russian government” have been briefed on Beijing’s growing arsenal.

China has consistently rejected U.S. offers to join arms talks, despite what the U.S. sees as the dangers posed by its growing force of strategic weapons, dominated by several types of new missiles of all ranges, ballistic missile submarines and bombers.

“Today, China allows no such transparency for the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said. “Beijing refuses to disclose how many nuclear weapons it has, how many it plans to develop, or what it plans to do with them. It is the least transparent of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.”

China is rapidly developing a triad of missiles, submarines and bombers under President Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi’s recent elevation of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces into a new military branch is part of the drive to create a world-class military by 2049.

The two U.S. officials said that satellite imagery revealed PLA advances during a 2019 military parade showing off nuclear-capable missiles. The parade stretched nearly 3 miles and was almost 10 times longer than a similar parade a decade earlier.

The latest parade showcased the new DF-41 multiwarhead missile capable of striking the U.S. in 30 minutes. The DF-41 will be deployed in silos and on mobile launchers in the near future as part of a bid by Beijing to double its nuclear arsenal in the next 10 years.

“Beijing has done all this while exploiting the United States’ decades-long compliance with ineffective arms-control agreements,” Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea stated.

“While we were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty’s limits on ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, the PLA has fielded more than a thousand theater-range ballistic missiles near its coast,” they noted.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said China test-fired more ballistic missiles in 2018 and 2020 than all other nations combined, more than 220 ballistic missiles. China also is conducting year-round activity at its nuclear testing site at Lop Nur in western China. In the past, activity there was seasonal and sporadic.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said that a Pentagon report showing evidence that PLA Rocket Forces are moving to a more unstable “launch on warning” nuclear posture brings into question Beijing’s “no first use” nuclear policies.

China has refused repeated calls by the Trump administration to join the current U.S.-Russia nuclear talks, with the incoming Biden administration facing an early call on whether to agree to a bilateral extension with Russia of New START, due to expire next month. Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea stated that any successor treaty to New START must include China’s forces.

“Our calls for China’s leaders to change course are reasonable. We’ve asked Beijing for transparency, and to join the United States and Russia in crafting a new arms control agreement covering all categories of nuclear weapons,” they stated.

While the current U.S.-Russia New START treaty limits both nations’ development of certain weapons, China has been free to continues its build-up unchecked.

“The United States has done its part to reduce nuclear dangers; it is time that China stopped posturing and began to comport itself responsibly,” they said.

Noting China’s desire to be accepted as a great nation, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea argued that “any nation with claims to greatness” should handle the world’s most dangerous weapons responsibly.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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