Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said at a daily briefing that potential negotiations over Beijing's nuclear stockpile were at the "lowest level" of its national security needs. China's nuclear arsenal can't be compared to those of Moscow or Washington.
"China opposes any country talking out of turn about China on the issue of arms control, and will not take part in any trilateral negotiations on a nuclear disarmament agreement," Geng said, responding to an inquiry on recent remarks by US President Donald Trump, according to Reuters.
The official went on to say that China has advocated for the complete prohibition and the thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. Reuters also reported that Geng said countries with the largest hoards of nuclear weapons have a responsibility to "reduce nuclear weapons in a verifiable and irreversible manner."
Following a phone conversation last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump told reporters that both leaders spoke on the possibility of striking up a new nuclear accord "very shortly," and that China could be added into the talks at a later time.
"I think we're going to probably start up something very shortly between Russia and ourselves, maybe to start off, and I think China will be added down the road," Trump said on Friday. "We'll be talking about nonproliferation. We'll be talking about a nuclear deal of some kind. And I think it will be a very comprehensive one."
"We're talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less. And maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now," he added.
Trump previously broached the subject in early April when he hosted Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for trade talks, the Washington Examiner reported. At the time, Liu showed interest in the matter, saying that he thought "it is a very good idea."
Mention of trilateral nuclear arms talks comes as uncertainty grows regarding whether the 2011 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in two years, will be extended by five years by either Russia or the US. The Obama-era treaty caps the number of nuclear warheads Russia and the US can deploy at 1,550. The agreement also places limitations on the usage of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ICBM launchers.
In January 2019, the Trump administration announced that the US was officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, alleging that Russia had broken the terms of the 1987 agreement. Addressing the matter during his State of the Union speech, Trump stressed that Russia had "repeatedly violated" the terms of the treaty, a claim which Russia has rejected.
Following the INF Treaty announcement, Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear that if the New START treaty "goes away, too, it's like a whole new day in this regard, and we could see a full-on arms race between all these countries."