US seeks ways to reduce nuclear risk with China

Bonnie Jenkins (Photo courtesy of US State Department/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The United States continues to seek ways to reduce nuclear and security risks with China through bilateral dialogue as well as through the so-called “P5 process.” , said Bonnie Jenkins, senior arms control official at the US State Department. in a recent phone interview with Kyodo News.

The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security’s remarks come days after the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain issued a joint statement saying a war involving nuclear weapons must be avoided and that these armaments must be used for defensive purposes. and deter aggression.

The five nuclear-weapon states are permanent members of the UN Security Council, called the “P5”, each with the right to veto crucial decisions related to international security.

“First of all, having a P5 and having them in this discussion is very helpful,” Jenkins said, while stressing the importance of the rare joint statement that reiterated a historic message issued in 1985 by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail. Gorbachev.

Both leaders have declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, which was repeated by the recent joint statement of the P5.

The timing is important because the US-China confrontation has escalated in recent years and China appears to be expanding its nuclear arsenal to increase its nuclear deterrence and political clout against Washington.

“President (Joe) Biden and President (Chinese) Xi (Jinping) had the opportunity to have a brief conversation about future bilateral work. This is something that interests me greatly. I know that my colleagues Americans remain very interested in finding ways that we can work with China to establish some kind of transparency and an opportunity to reduce risk and miscalculation,” Jenkins said.

She referred to an online summit of the two leaders last November, during which Biden spoke of the need to put in place a “guardrail” to control the tough military competition between the United States and China.

In June last year, Biden agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish a “strategic stability dialogue” or SSD, which Biden wants to lead to a future nuclear arms reduction treaty. However, the United States and China have not created such a bilateral mechanism so far.

“So we’re still trying to find ways to do that, to find ways to follow up on the conversation that President Biden and Mr. Xi had about this, so that we can see how we we can move forward,” Jenkins continued.

The P5 process began in 2009, the year Biden became vice president under President Barack Obama, who declared “America’s commitment to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” in his famous Prague speech later that same year.

Since then, the five nuclear nations have had periodic political discussion to deepen mutual understanding and find common political goals related to nuclear risk. The chair of the P5 process in 2022 is the United States.

“One of the things we do in the P5 is we look at issues like risk reduction. So that’s an opportunity, and we hope to do more of that under the US chairmanship of the P5. We want to continue looking at harm reduction issues,” Jenkins said.

“We had conversations (with China) … in a P5 context, not with the United States bilaterally. But what we hope is that we can also have this conversation there. We remain very interested in engaging China. bilaterally,” Jenkins pointed out.

The five-nation joint statement had been timed to coincide with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which was scheduled for January but was postponed to the summer due to the dramatic rise of the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

All five nations are officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the NPT, under which the nuclear powers pledge to work towards disarmament in exchange for pledges by non-nuclear states not to acquire the devastating weapons.

“I think one of the things the declaration does is that it really emphasizes the willingness of the United States and the other four nuclear-weapon states in the NPT to work with all countries to create a security environment truly conducive to progress in nuclear disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons.”

“And…it’s a responsibility of all (NPT) countries and a responsibility that we all share. So in light of that, we expect, for example, Russia to engage with us on the future of nuclear arms control, and we have already had a conversation between the SSDs (participants). We also hope and plan to work with China, ”she continued.

However, rising tensions between the United States and China, particularly over Taiwan, cloud the future prospect of a bilateral nuclear dialogue between the two superpowers.

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