Beijing (CNN)- China would be “happy” to join trilateral nuclear arms control talks with the United States and Russia, on the condition that Washington significantly reduces its arsenal to match China’s own level, a senior Chinese diplomat said Wednesday.
The Chinese military currently has far fewer nuclear weapons than either the US or Russia, both of which have at least 5,000 nuclear warheads each.
In comparison, it is estimated that China only has about 320, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), meaning the US would be required to eliminate more than 4,500 warheads from its arsenal to match Beijing.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for China to join nuclear arms control negotiations between the US and Russia, but Beijing has said it is out of the question while its nuclear arsenal is still comparatively small.
“I can assure you that if the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level (of nuclear weapons), China will be happy to participate the next day. But actually we know that’s not going to happen,” Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, said at a press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.
Trump wants China to join in a three-way treaty designed to replace the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, known as the New START nuclear agreement, between Washington and Moscow, which is expected to expire in 2021.
New negotiations are already underway between the US and Russia, but the Chinese government has flatly refused to take part in any nuclear agreement with the US.
Fu said that while China is a “strong advocate for nuclear disarmament,” Beijing’s position on trilateral talks had been made clear on “numerous occasions.”
“China has no interest in joining the so-called trilateral negotiations, given the huge gap between the nuclear arsenal of China and those of the US and the Russian Federation,” Fu said.
“For us, this trilateral negotiation is nothing but a ‘hoax,’ to use a word of the US President,” he added, referring to a favorite term of Donald Trump.
Speaking on June 24, Marshall Billingslea, the top US envoy for nuclear negotiations, said that Beijing had an “obligation” to negotiate, and accused the Chinese government of engaging in a “rapid buildup” of its nuclear program, to achieve parity with the US and China.
Fu dismissed claims that there was a rapid escalation of China’s nuclear missile capabilities and accused the US of trying to use China as an excuse to shirk their treaty commitments.
“The real purpose is to get rid of all restrictions and have a free hand in seeking military superiority over any adversary, real or imagined,” he said.
Experts believe there are nine nuclear-capable states: China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All but North Korea are believed to have weapons developed enough to be readily deployed.