US, Russia hold new nuclear weapons talks, but without China

BERLIN (AP) – US and Russian negotiators have concluded a series of nuclear arms control talks in Vienna aimed at producing a new agreement to replace the new START treaty which expires in February – the last remaining pact binding on the arsenals of two main countries of the world nuclear powers.

US negotiator Marshall Billingslea told reporters on Tuesday that a high-level day of “marathon discussions” ended late Monday evening and had been productive enough to conclude with the establishment of several technical working groups to deepen the work. problems with the idea of ​​leading the way. for a second round of talks in late July or early August.

“We both agreed at the end of our talks that the strategic environment has changed considerably since the signing of the new START treaty,” he told reporters. “We can all remember 10 years ago, the world is, in fact, a radically different place.”

The new START, signed in 2010, places limits on the number of US and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers.

It became the last nuclear weapons pact between the two countries after the United States last year canceled the mid-range nuclear forces treaty with Russia, a Cold War era agreement that both sides had repeatedly accused the other of raping.

The INF treaty has also been criticized for not covering China or missile technology that didn’t exist a generation ago.

The new START can be extended by five years by mutual consent.

Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister who led his country’s delegation to Vienna, told reporters in Moscow that he had reiterated the position it should be.

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“We have presented our point of view and will continue to do so,” Ryabkov told Interfax. “We are running out of time.”

However, he added that the creation of working groups was “an important step forward” and said that the talks had taken place in a positive atmosphere and reflected a common desire to move forward.

President Donald Trump called New START “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration, and it was unclear whether he would accept an extension.

Billingslea told reporters at a press conference held by the US delegation that any new agreement must include all nuclear weapons, not just strategic nuclear weapons, and also subject China to restrictions.

All of the options, he said, are “definitely on the table”.

“Our ultimate decision, which is in the hands of the president, whether he decides to extend the new START treaty or allow it to run its course, will largely depend on the extent to which we have made progress, not just with our Russian colleagues but with our Chinese counterparts, “he said.

He said China had refused an American invitation to participate in the Vienna talks, but hoped that the international community would pressure Beijing to participate in the future.

“The United States is not in an arms race,” said Billingslea. “Of course we will not be left behind, but we are trying to avoid that, and that is why a three-way nuclear weapons control agreement, in our view, has the best chance of avoiding an arms race incredibly destabilizing three-way nuclear power. “

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Ryabkov said Russia believes other nuclear powers should join future nuclear weapons agreements, but added that a decision to join could only be voluntary.

“We know China’s position well, we respect it and we see no sign that China’s position could change in the direction desired by the United States in a foreseeable prospect,” he said, according to Interfax.

Billingslea said he “would not rule out anything”, but that the United States did not think that Britain or France, with much smaller nuclear arsenals, should be included as he said, the Russia wanted it.

“Both qualitatively and quantitatively, the United Kingdom and France are in a very different situation from that of Chinese arms racing,” he said.

The US attempt to get China on board got off to a bad start when Billingslea tweeted a photo of the negotiating table set up with Chinese flags in front of vacant seats on Monday, saying “China is a no show “.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian went wild on Tuesday, saying it was “neither serious nor professional for the United States to attract attention in this way.”

“We urge the United States to put an end to this annoying thing, to actively respond to Russia’s call for the extension of the new START and to hold serious discussions with the Russian side on this matter,” he said. -he declares.

Billingslea defended the placement of the flags, saying that “we have set up the room for the three countries” in anticipation of a delegation from China, then removed them to set up the room for bilateral discussions .

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Source: AP News

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