At NATO’s annual arms control conference on Monday Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged China to join international arms control talks, which would bring it into nuclear limitations dialogue with the United States and other major armed powers.
“China is building a large number of missile silos, which can significantly increase its nuclear capability. All of this is happening without any limitation or constraint. And with a complete lack of transparency,” Stoltenberg said.
He also said Beijing must take full responsibility for arms control, which it so far has refused to do. “As a global power, China has global responsibilities in arms control. And Beijing, too, would benefit from mutual limits on numbers, increased transparency, and more predictability,” Stoltenberg added. “These are the foundations for international stability.”
While praising the US and Russia’s agreeing to extend their ‘New START’ agreement on limiting strategic nuclear arms, he underscored that future agreements will have to take into account rapidly developing and possibly unpredictable technologies, like A.I.
Most Western estimates put China’s arsenal at about 320 warheads at the high estimate range, while the US and Russia each have over 1,500 deployed; however, the US is believed behind in terms of modernizing and updating its nuclear weapons systems, including ICBM capabilities.
Earlier this year the Pentagon briefed Congress on the faster than expected modernization rate of both China and Russia’s nuclear arsenals, strongly suggesting that Washington’s own modernization efforts have been outpaced.
Recall that during the prior Trump administration the former president had resisted quick extensions of landmark Cold War era treaties with Russia. The main rationale as expressed by the State Department at the time was that the old treaties didn’t account for new leaps in missile delivery technology possessed of Moscow and Beijing, and that they didn’t at all involve China.
More recently, under the Biden administration the US disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood had accused China of “resisting” nuclear talks: “Despite the PRC’s dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States,” Woods told a UN conference in May.