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The United States and China Still Need to Talk About Nuclear Weapons

Biden and Blinken must not let the spy balloon controversy stand in the way of talks on nuclear crisis management and arms control.

Foreign Policy By Sahil Shah, a Senior Fellow and Program Manager at the Council on Strategic Risks’ Janne Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons. 6 Feb23

Shortly before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was slated to depart for Beijing on the Biden administration’s first cabinet-level visit, the trip was postponed. The last-minute schedule change came after a Chinese surveillance balloon was confirmed to be floating above sensitive U.S. military sites, including potentially an active nuclear missile silo field in Montana. Over the weekend, the balloon was shot down by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet once the expected debris no longer posed a threat to civilians.

The incident is reminiscent of those that occurred during the Cold War involving the United States and the Soviet Union—and it comes at a time when many are debating whether Washington and Beijing are now headed toward a similar relationship. Blinken’s now-postponed visit was an attempt to follow up on the Biden-Xi meeting at the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last year. Encouragingly, the summit provided the best recent opportunity for diplomacy between the United States and China—one that could provide some answers on how the two countries can best avoid a “new Cold War” and reduce the risks of unnecessary conflict and inadvertent escalation.

As was true during the Cold War, spy balloons are not the only things looming over the fraught relationship between the United States and China—nuclear weapons are, too. In addition to ever-increasing tensions over Taiwan, it is no secret that China’s ambition for a diversified nuclear arsenal and wider military modernization is accelerating, with Beijing expanding strategic and conventional forces to back up its “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

Since university researchers made it public two years ago that China is developing extensive missile silo fields and Beijing shocked U.S. intelligence services by testing a hypersonic fractional orbital bombardment system just weeks later, there has been a growing conversation on how Washington can adequately deter Beijing. However, there is another side that cannot be ignored: The United States and China must return to talks at the earliest available opportunity to discuss their shared responsibility to reduce the risk of nuclear war through crisis management and arms control.

……………………….. Policymakers in Washington have barely discussed how U.S. policies factor into Beijing’s calculations and, most importantly, how Chinese actions could be positively influenced away from their current arms-race trajectory…………..

February 6, 2023 - Posted by | politics international

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