U.S. and China Meet for First Nuclear Talks in Half a Decade, Taiwan at Forefront

U.S. and China Meet for First Nuclear Talks in Half a Decade, Taiwan at Forefront

U.S. and China Meet for First Nuclear Talks in Half a Decade, Taiwan at Forefront (Source: depositphotos)

China has increased its military presence surrounding the island throughout the last four years and has never denied the use of force to annex Taiwan

The United States and China, for the first time in five years, reopened semi-nuclear agreement talks. Two American delegates who were present at the official meeting mentioned that Beijing’s delegates assured their American counterparts that they would not use nuclear threats in relation to Taiwan.

After their US counterparts expressed concerns that China might use, or threaten to use nuclear weapons if they lost a fight over Taiwan, the Chinese delegates reassured them. Beijing considers the democratically run island to be a part of its territory and Taipei’s administration disputes this.

Former government officials and scholars who can speak authoritatively about their government’s position -even if they are personally engaged in determining it- usually participate in Track Two sessions. Track One refers to government-to-government talks.

The two-day deliberations took held in a conference room of a Shanghai hotel, and roughly six delegates, including former officials and professors, represented Washington.

In response to inquiries from Reuters, a State Department representative stated that Track Two discussions might be “beneficial”. Despite being informed about the meeting in March, the department did not attend, according to the spokeswoman.

During the informal talks between the nuclear-armed nations, authorities in Washington and Beijing accused one another of negotiating in bad faith as they disagreed on a number of important geopolitical and economic matters.

In November, the two nations briefly resumed their Track One nuclear armament talks, but since then, the talks have stopped, with a senior U.S. official openly voicing dissatisfaction with China’s attitude.

The Pentagon warned in October that China would also consider nuclear use to restore deterrence if a conventional military defeat in Taiwan threatened CCP rule. The Pentagon believes that Beijing’s nuclear arsenal rose by more than 20% between 2021 and 2023.

China has increased its military presence surrounding the island throughout the last four years and has never denied the use of force to annex Taiwan.

The two-decade nuclear weapons and posture discussion came to a standstill in 2019 after the Trump administration withdrew funding for the Track Two negotiations.

Only the Shanghai meeting addressed nuclear weapons and posture in depth after the COVID-19 epidemic, but semi-official talks on larger security and energy problems were resumed after the outbreak.

The director of the Pacific Forum research group, Santoro, is headquartered in Hawaii. He said that there were “frustrations” during the most recent talks, but both delegations found value in carrying on their conversation. More talks were scheduled for 2025, he stated.

According to estimates made by the U.S. Department of Defense last year, Beijing now possesses 500 nuclear warheads in operation and is likely to field more than 1,000 by 2030.

The United States and Russia have arranged 1,770 and 1,710 active warheads, respectively. According to the Pentagon, most of Beijing’s weapons will probably be kept at higher readiness levels by 2030.

China has also taken measures to modernize its arsenal since 2020. They have launched the production of its next-generation ballistic missile submarine, testing the warheads for hypersonic glide vehicles, and regularly patrolling the sea with nuclear weapons.

China possesses the “nuclear triad”—weapons on land, in the air, and at sea—that characterize a serious nuclear power.

Santoro stated that one of the main issues the U.S. side wished to address was if China continued to adhere to its limited deterrence and no-first-use principles, which stem from the development of its first nuclear weapon in the early 1960s.

Risks Involved

In May, Bonnie Jenkins, a top U.S. arms control official, reported to Congress that China had not reacted to suggestions Washington had made last year during formal negotiations to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons.

Additional government-to-government meetings have not yet been approved by China. The State Department spokesman told Reuters that Beijing’s “refusal to substantively engage” in talks over its nuclear build-up raises concerns about its “no-first-use” policy, which is “already ambiguous,” as well as its nuclear doctrine in general.

According to U.S. delegates, the Chinese initiatives were characterized as a modernization program based on deterrence, aimed at adapting to advancements like enhanced U.S. missile defenses, enhanced monitoring capabilities, and fortified alliances.

The prospect of using nuclear weapons if deterrence fails is part of Washington’s nuclear doctrine, though the Pentagon claims it would only contemplate so in dire situations. It gave no details at all.

A delegation from China “pointed to studies that said Chinese nuclear weapons were still vulnerable to U.S. strikes – their second-strike capability was not enough”, Morris stated.

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