US President Donald Trump is eying a new potential signature foreign policy achievement: a grand nuclear deal with Russia and China, according to CNN.
"The President has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles", a senior White House official told CNN.
Donald Trump prides himself on being a great dealmaker. “Deals are my art form. I like making deals, preferably big deals”, he has been known to say. Now the US president is said to be publicly hinting that a deal is on his agenda.
"Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can't", Trump said, mentioning his decision to pursue a treaty during his January address to the nation.
At a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office in April, Trump voiced the belief that Moscow and Beijing would "come along" on a nuclear deal and said it could happen after the US and China complete trade negotiations.
Trump had earlier criticised the New START as a "bad deal", while National Security Adviser John Bolton is known for axing arms control deals.
Some observers, however, are voicing concern that the administration is actually seeking a way out of the second nuclear pact, deeming it constraining and out-dated.
"The only reason you bring up China is if you have no intention of extending the New START Treaty", said Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
The Trump administration has not set out a timeline for negotiations or even raised the prospect with China and Russia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers that the US was in the "very beginning of conversations about renewing" the treaty.
However, the New START was built on decades of negotiations regarding the original START Treaty. A deal that would include a new country could require starting from scratch.
Both US and Russian officials have signalled that a renewal could be drawn-out and difficult, as Russia has been questioning US compliance with the New START.
"The extension of the New START is not a simple technicality that could be resolved in a couple of weeks", Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said at an arms control conference this month. "Serious issues must be settled".
In February, President Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally withdraw from the INF Treaty, pointing towards Russia’s 9M729 cruise missile, which American officials claim violates the existing limitations.
Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations that the missile violates the 1987 accord.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently stated that the collapse of the INF Treaty casts a shadow over the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty's (New START) extension.
The New START Treaty entered into force on 5 February 2011. It has a 10-year duration with an option to extend it for no more than five years.
The aggregate limits of the treaty restrict the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads each. The treaty also includes an aggregate limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments. Within that limit, the number of deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers cannot exceed 700.