Joe Biden and Xi Jinping have agreed to hold talks aimed at easing tensions as US concerns grow over China’s growing nuclear arsenal and the recent test of a hypersonic weapon.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US and Chinese presidents discussed the need for nuclear “strategic stability” talks at their virtual meeting on Monday. China has previously refused to hold nuclear talks, partly because the US has a much larger arsenal at its disposal.
“The two leaders agreed that we would try to continue discussions on strategic stability,” Sullivan told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
The two sides have not decided on a form for the talks and the US wants to see if China will keep Xi’s promise.
The development is the first sign that the two sides have reached an agreement on easing tensions over serious security issues. It comes against the background of the worst relations between the US and China since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1979.
During Monday’s more than three-hour meeting, Biden emphasized that the two countries needed to create “guardrails” to ensure that their competition “does not come into conflict.” Xi said they needed to prevent US-China relations from derailing.
The Pentagon said last week that China plans to more than quadruple its stockpile to at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. land, sea and air – after deploying an atomic bomber.
The US Department of Defense also said China was changing its nuclear stance in ways that suggested it was moving away from “minimal deterrence” after five decades — a policy designed to ensure it had just enough weapons to retaliate. to take on an enemy attack.
Last month, the Financial Times reported that in July China tested a nuclear hypersonic weapon that could orbit the Earth. General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the test was almost a “Sputnik moment,” in reference to the Soviet Union putting a satellite into space in 1957.
Asked about China’s rapid nuclear expansion, which has become more apparent in the past year, and its hypersonic missile test, Sullivan said the problems are “of great significance to America’s national security.”
“President Biden has raised with President Xi the need for a series of strategic stability talks. . . that should be led by the leaders and led by senior delegated teams on both sides crossing the border on security, technology and diplomacy,” Sullivan said.
The national security adviser added that talks with China would not be on the same level as the US’ “strategic stability dialogue” with Russia, which has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and with which the US has spent decades of arms control negotiations. .
“There is less maturity to” [the nuclear aspect] in the US-China relationship, but the two leaders did discuss these issues. And now it’s up to us to think about the most productive way to take it from here,” Sullivan said.
While leaders made progress on the nuclear issue, there was no sign of any easing in tensions over Taiwan. Biden said he supported the “one China” policy, in which Washington recognizes Beijing as China’s sole seat of government, but expressed concern about Chinese military activity near the island.
Xi warned him that anyone who supported supporters of Taiwanese independence would “play with fire” and “burn themselves”.
Some experts believe Beijing is expanding its arsenal to neutralize Washington’s ability to threaten China with nuclear weapons, making it easier for the Chinese military to defeat the US in a non-nuclear conflict over Taiwan.
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