BRUSSELS, ($1=0.84 Euro) – During and after the Cold War, arms control treaties mainly concerned the United States and the Soviet Union [and then Russia], which made sense given the size of their respective nuclear arsenals. However, the situation has since changed.
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For example, other countries, such as India, Pakistan, and, more recently, North Korea, have nuclear weapons. And China, which until then had been content with a relatively modest arsenal [just over 200 weapons, note], is reportedly significantly increasing the size of its strategic forces. And Beijing is credited with intending to acquire more than 1,000 nuclear warheads.
In 2019, as the New Start [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty], signed by Washington and Moscow, was about to expire, the Trump administration felt it should be extended to China to include hypersonic weapons.
“We have to make sure that all the parties concerned are also involved,” said Mike Pompeo, then head of US diplomacy, referring to Beijing. “We may only cooperate with the Russians on this issue. But if we are talking about […] nuclear capacities which represent a risk for the United States, it is a new world today”, he insisted.
The idea of involving Beijing in arms control efforts had already been put forward when the Treaty on Intermediate Nuclear Forces [INF] had just been denounced by the United States, which had accused Russia of being released from its obligations for having deployed the 9M729 missile. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was in favor. And even Russian President Vladimir Putin was not formally opposed.
However, China refused … for the simple reason that it would have deprived it of a good part of its arsenal. And, of course, there was no question of Beijing joining the New Start Treaty either.
Anyway, after the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House, this text, which limits the Russian and American arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 strategic launchers, has been extended, as is, for five more years.
At the same time, however, China is building more than 250 new launch silos for its intercontinental ballistic missiles of the DF-41 and DF-31AG types.
Hence the remarks made by Mr. Stoltenberg at the NATO annual conference on arms control, which opened on September 6 in Copenhagen [Denmark].
“China’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly, with more warheads and more sophisticated delivery systems. It builds a large number of missile silos, which can significantly increase its nuclear capacity. All this happens without any limitation or constraint. And with a total lack of transparency,” said the NATO secretary-general at first.
Also, he said, “China, as a world power, must join in efforts in the field of arms control.” Wishful thinking … as it is so improbable that Beijing will agree to comply with such a request. “The number of nuclear warheads” of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] “must reach the amount that thrills the American elites if they plan to engage in a military confrontation with China,” Global Times said last May.
In addition, Mr. Stoltenberg also defended the idea of including emerging technologies [hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons systems, etc…] in arms control agreements.
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