The United States and China on Monday held rare talks on nuclear arms control, a new step to ease mistrust ahead of an expected presidential summit next week.
The talks — the first meeting specifically on nuclear arms between the two powers since president Barack Obama’s administration — come as the United States voices alarm over China’s growing nuclear arsenal.
No breakthroughs were expected at the one-day talks in Washington, which follow a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“We have continually called on the PRC to substantively engage on arms control issues and reducing strategic risk,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“This engagement will continue efforts to responsibly manage the relationship and ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” he said.
President Joe Biden is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping next week on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in San Francisco in the first meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies in a year.
Monday’s talks were taking place between Mallory Stewart, the US assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, and Sun Xiaobo, the director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Weng Wenbin said that the two sides will “exchange views on a wide range of issues such as the implementation of international arms control treaties and non-proliferation.”
The Pentagon in a congressionally mandated report last month said that China was developing its nuclear arsenal more quickly than the United States earlier anticipated.
China possessed more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023 and is likely to have more than 1,000 by 2030, it said.
The United States currently possesses about 3,700 nuclear warheads, trailing Russia’s roughly 4,500, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which counts 410 warheads for China.
Former president Donald Trump’s administration, concerned about China’s growing arsenal, insisted on including Beijing in a successor to the New START treaty on nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States.
President Joe Biden on taking office agreed to extend New START to February 2026.