Following his dinner meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina after the G20 summit on Saturday, when both sides agreed to halt bilateral trade tensions, Trump posted a series of tweets on Monday boasting the "success" of the meeting and his improved personal relations with the Chinese leader.
As part of his efforts to demonstrate warming ties with Beijing, Trump went as far as to suggest that he could initiate talks with both Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on how to keep the ongoing arms race from getting out of control.
"I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!" Trump wrote in a message on Twitter.
Such suggestions on arms control negotiations came less than two months after Trump threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a joint US-Russia arms control agreement.
"I believe this [arms control talks] is not an easily achieved goal. It seems to be similar to other comments Trump often makes on Twitter, which he rarely backs up by action. It sounds more like an impromptu comment to prove to his domestic supporters how good his personal relationship is with the Chinese president," Arthur Ding, director of the Institute of International Relations under the National Chengchi University in Taipei, told Sputnik.
The Taiwan-based scholar believed China was unlikely to be willing to engage in any arms control talks with the United States in the near future.
"China’s perspective is that its nuclear arsenal, including nuclear warheads and missiles, is still much smaller than that of the United States. China’s position is that it’s only possible for Beijing to join such negotiations after massive arms reductions from both the United States and Russia. I don’t think Beijing will be willing to start arms control negotiations with the United States," he said.
The expert added that China was also unlikely to agree to reduce its conventional missiles, which are viewed as critical deterrence capabilities against possible future military conflicts with the United States in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea.
Arms Control Strategy
In addition to threatening to withdraw from the INF Treaty, Trump also approved a massive $716 billion defence budget in August, which would allow advanced weaponry such as the F-35 fighter jets and the new long-range stealth B-21 bomber to be added to the US military.
Arms control experts suggested that Trump’s increased military spending could be part of his strategy to force potential rivals, including China and Russia, to come to the negotiating table to discuss arms control, after proving to them that there was no chance of winning an arms race against the United States.
"Trump and his military advisers believe in a theory that the United States must prove to its opponents that Washington will be the sure winner in any arms race, as a way to persuade possible rivals to give up the idea of pursuing an arms race and start arms control negotiations," Zhao Tong, a fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, told Sputnik.
"To convince your opponent to give up on an arms race, you can’t just put up a posture without backing it up with actions. You have to send some signals that come with costs, which can make them more convincing. That’s why the United States has started to develop low-yield tactical nuclear weapons or deploy low-yield nuclear warheads on nuclear submarines. I’m afraid it’s inevitable for the United States to withdraw from the INF Treaty," he said.
Implications of Arms Race
Despite the fact that the bilateral strategic partnership between China and Russia has strengthened in recent years, the arms race with the United States may result in Beijing and Moscow feeling threatened by one another, the expert noted.
"In general, China and Russia will seek to cooperate with each other and compete against the United States. But one possible scenario is that the competition between two sides will have indirect consequences on the third party. For example, if the US-Russia arms race pushed the US missile defence system to improve greatly, China would view the improved US capability as a threat and develop countermeasures. Vice versa, if the US-Russia arms race made China sense possible threat from greatly improved Russian military capabilities, Beijing could also seek to boost its capabilities to prepare for possible threats from Russia," he said.
The complicated history between China and Russia, especially on previous territorial disputes, may contribute to the situation and make it inevitable for both sides to make preparations for the worst-case scenario, the expert added.
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.