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US, China hold 'constructive' arms control talks

The United States said on Tuesday (Nov 7) it had held constructive talks with China this week on arms control and nonproliferation as part of an effort to keep lines of communication open ahead of a possible meeting of the US and Chinese presidents this month.

The arms control talks in Washington on Monday, which a US official described as the first since the Obama administration, were led by US Assistant Secretary of State Mallory Stewart and Sun Xiaobo, a director-general at China’s foreign ministry.

One of the top US priorities has been to ensure the intense competition between the world’s two largest economies and their disagreements over a host of issues from trade to Taiwan and the South China Sea do not veer into conflict.

Washington is also concerned about the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal which, at an estimated 500 warheads according to the Pentagon, remains below the US and Russian arsenals but which some analysts believe could increase the risk of conflict.

“The two sides held a candid and in-depth discussion on issues related to arms control and nonproliferation as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage the US-PRC relationship,” the US State Department said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

“The United States emphasised the importance of increased PRC nuclear transparency and substantive engagement on practical measures to manage and reduce strategic risks across multiple domains, including nuclear and outer space,” it added.

“This constructive meeting followed recent high-level engagements,” it said, citing talks in Washington between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said it did not have any immediate comment.

Related:

US does not need to boost nuclear arsenal to deter Russia, China

China agrees to nuclear arms-control talks with US: Report

Teams for US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have an agreement in principle for them to meet in San Francisco in November, but important details need to be hammered out, a senior Biden administration official said on Oct 31.

China has more than 500 operational nuclear warheads in its arsenal and will probably have over 1,000 warheads by 2030, the Pentagon said in its annual report on Beijing’s military, which was released on Oct 19.

The United States has a stockpile of about 3,700 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,419 strategic nuclear warheads were deployed. Russia has about 1,550 nuclear weapons deployed and according to the Federation of American Scientists, a stockpile of 4,489 nuclear warheads.

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China willing to cooperate with US, manage differences: Xi

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