For several years, Chinese officials have refused to negotiate nuclear arms control limits with US officials. Beijing says it shouldn’t have to until and unless the United States reduces its nuclear weapons arsenal to match much lower Chinese levels. That sounds plausible but for three problems. First, China refuses to share how many nuclear weapons it has. Second, it is ramping up its nuclear weapons production as fast as it can and, third, it is doing this in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation to negotiate nuclear limits in good faith.
Given these three pratfalls, most experts believe getting China to the nuclear negotiating table is a fool’s errand. Perhaps. But Washington has one lever it’s not used that would certain draw Beijing’s attention — the possible redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea and Japan. Beijing is quite vocal in opposing any such redeployments.
As I note in the attached The Hill op-ed, “Call China’s Bluff on Nukes and Plutonium,” the United States has a clear, temporary nuclear advantage that could be made worse if South Korea and Japan asked for and got the United States to deploy the many hundreds of nuclear arms it once based on their countries’ soil. The United States currently has no such plans. Instead, the Biden Administration has brought both Seoul and Tokyo closer into America’s nuclear confidence and planning.
It’s unclear, however, how long this might work. In fact, both South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japan’s most popular former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have suggested that Washington redeploy its nuclear arms on their soil. This has Beijing worried. China, however, is engaged in a crash plutonium production effort to ramp up China’s nuclear arsenal numbers.
As I explain in the piece, this recommends a simple deal. Washington will hold off redeployments as long as China freezes its crash plutonium production construction program. The best part of this proposal, of course, is in the details, which are covered in the piece itself.
August 23, 2023
Author: Henry Sokolski
Late last week, the Biden administration announced it was working toward “a common vision of a world without nuclear weapons,” a commitment put on public display with senior U.S. officials being filmed in their offices unfolding origami paper “peace” cranes.
It’s uncertain what impact, if any, this vision has had. What is clear is that America’s fastest growing nuclear rival — China — is focused on something far more concrete. It wants Washington to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from bases in NATO and pledge never to redeploy nuclear arms outside America’s borders.
Beijing is busy expanding its own nuclear arsenal with a renewed plutonium production effort. Nonetheless, it has repeatedly demanded Washington withdraw its forward-deployed nuclear weapons at Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review sessions, the most recent of which concluded August 11. Chinese diplomats insist the NPT should prevent states from placing nuclear weapons on other nations’ soil. Beijing even protested Vladimir Putin’s redeployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus last March.
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