US invites China to arms control talks, seeing opening

Washington (AFP) –


The United States on Thursday again invited China to talks on arms control, saying it saw an opening with Beijing on three-way negotiations with Russia despite disagreements.

"The United States welcomes China's commitment to engage in arms control negotiations. As such, prudent next steps will need to include face-to-face meetings between the United States and China," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump's administration has been demanding that a rising China take part in talks on a successor to the New START treaty, which caps the nuclear warheads of Cold War-era superpowers the United States and Russia.

China did not join initial US-Russia talks last month in Vienna on the treaty, which expires in February.

But China on Wednesday said it was willing to participate in arms control negotiations with the United States -- with the major caveat that Washington reduce its arsenal to the much smaller size of Beijing.

Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control at China's foreign ministry, charged that the US stance was "nothing but a ploy" to let Washington leave New START and have a free hand in ramping up its nuclear program.

The United States nonetheless saw the glass as half-full and seized on the statement, saying that Marshall Billingslea, the US negotiator, would invite China to talks to follow up.

"We will all bring different perspectives and objectives to the negotiating table and will surely have disagreements," Ortagus said.

"But it is time for dialogue and diplomacy between the three biggest nuclear weapons powers on how to prevent a new arms race."