US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed during their virtual summit this week to launch a series of high-level arms control talks, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.
Sullivan said in a discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington that Biden made the proposal out of concern over a build-up in China’s nuclear arsenal, reports that China carried out two hypersonic missile tests and other indications of the spread of military technology in the South and East China seas.
Biden “did raise with President Xi the need for a strategic stability set of conversations around the sorts of issues you just described … that needs to be guided by the leaders and led by senior empowered teams on both sides that cut across security, technology and diplomacy”, he said.
Sullivan’s was responding to a question from Brookings president John Allen about, among other advances, China’s “potential to add as many as hundreds of warheads to their nuclear arsenal” and “the recent test of the fractional orbital bombardment system”, as US national security officials have described the hypersonics that China has tested.
“The two leaders agreed that we would look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability,” Sullivan added. “It is now incumbent on us to think about the most productive way to carry it forward from here.”
The proposed dialogue on arms control was one of the few specific items announced so far that the two sides would need to follow up on. The meeting struck a mostly conciliatory tone, although they flagged areas of disagreement, most pointedly about Taiwan, where Xi said Taiwanese independence advocates risked sparking “drastic measures” by Beijing.
The US State Department called on China earlier this month to start talks about its nuclear arms programme after a Pentagon determination that Beijing was expanding its arsenal faster than previously thought.