Chairs of the bicameral Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group urge risk reduction steps between the U.S. and China
Washington (November 5, 2021) - Today, U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, wrote to President Joe Biden urging him to make nuclear risk reduction measures with China a top priority in his upcoming summit with Xi Jinping, leader of the People’s Republic of China. The letter comes one day after the Department of Defense released its 2021 Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, which found that China is expanding its nuclear weapons and missile programs. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern about China’s recent launch of an “orbital bombardment system,” along with other nuclear modernization efforts, and argued that we must seek opportunities for cooperation with China when it comes to existential threats – such as those posed by nuclear weapons.
“We applaud your Administration’s efforts to seek cooperation with Beijing on the existential threats posed by the climate crisis. We hope that you will extend those conversations to include seeking cooperation on the existential threat of nuclear weapons,” wrote the lawmakers. “At your upcoming virtual bilateral meeting with Xi, we ask that you propose practical steps to reduce nuclear weapons risks with China…We urge your Administration, in its Integrated National Defense Strategy, to prioritize restraint and to work with allies and partners to call on China to maintain its minimum deterrent posture. China’s test of an orbital bombardment system is only a “Sputnik moment” if we let it result in a new arms race. Through your leadership and diplomacy, we can ensure that does not happen.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE
The respective co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group laid out five specific weapons risk reduction measures President Biden may consider proposing:
- Invite China, and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to observe a United States-Russia New START Treaty on-site inspection. China, whose nuclear doctrine is marked by its opaqueness, could benefit from observing the U.S.-Russia model of binding, verifiable limits on their strategic forces, as well as how to manage access to sensitive facilities.
- Seek negotiations toward a treaty or agreement that stops the additional production of fissile material. Although China has resisted efforts to negotiate a legally binding Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament, an agreement that requires mutual disclosure of stocks of fissile material, or more ambitiously, a freeze on further production, would be a positive step forward.
- Seek an agreement with China that allows for advance notifications of ballistic missile launches, through the Hague Code of Conduct. By subscribing to the Hague Code of Conduct and sharing pre-launch notifications, China would have the opportunity to back its dubious claim that it tested a peaceful “space vehicle” last August, not an orbital bombardment system, as was widely reported.
- Seek an agreement not to target or interfere in nuclear command, control, and communications (commonly referred to as ‘‘NC3’’) infrastructure. The United States and former Soviet Union agreed to not target the nuclear command and control systems of the other party for fear that such an action could be perceived as a prelude to a massive, decapitating nuclear strike. The United States, China, and potentially other countries, should mutually agree that kinetic or non-kinetic attacks that blind NC3 infrastructure must be off the table.
- Seek an agreement on transparency measures or verifiable limits, or both, on hypersonic cruise missiles and glide vehicles that are mounted on ballistic missiles. A top U.S. military official assessed that countries’ development of novel hypersonic nuclear systems is due to the exaggerated capabilities of U.S. missile defenses to intercept their strategic forces. President Biden’s meeting with Xi and his forthcoming Missile Defense Review can make clear that no current or planned U.S. missile defense system will seek to alter the deterrence value of mutual vulnerability from strategic nuclear weapons.
In July, the Nuclear Weapons Arms Control Working Group led 18 of their colleagues in calling on President Biden to actively guide the formation of the Department of Defense-led Nuclear Posture Review in order to ensure that the policy review reflects his historic leadership in reducing nuclear weapons risks.