The Trump administration is taking a hard line with China and Russia over their nuclear weapons buildups. As both superpowers modernize and increase their nuclear weapons stockpiles, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Robert A. Wood, has just laid down the gauntlet.
According to an interview with CBS News, Woods said: “We’re not going to allow Russia and China to continue to move forward on their modernizations and increasing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons…This is something that the president said cannot continue.”
This forceful announcement expresses President Trump’s firm commitment to restrain both Chinese and Russian nuclear buildups and comes just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu to discuss bringing China into broader nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia.
Woods explained to CBS News, “In the last 10 years, the U.S. has been trying to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its overall national security strategy. China and Russia have gone in the opposite direction.”
China is in a massive nuclear weapons buildup. It is growing its ballistic missile submarine fleet, developing road-mobile ICBMs, new tactical nuclear weapons, and hypersonic weapons. In line with what I noted in an earlier piece, Ambassador Wood told CBS News that “China’s overall nuclear stockpile is going to double over the next 10 years. That of course is a great concern.”
Wood added that “right now, we are modernizing our stockpile. But we are not increasing the number in any substantial way. And we are having to deal with and respond to these growing challenges from Russia and China. And we cannot turn a blind eye to this.”
Arms control talks with Russia, and perhaps China, are planned for June 22nd in Vienna. China’s glaring absence from international nuclear arms control agreements has become a focal point of the Trump administration. Wood said the arms control team is “laser focused” on bringing both Russia and China into a new framework agreement.
When asked if the U.S. would increase and modernize its nuclear weapons forces if China and Russia don’t fall into line, Woods responded by saying, “with Russia and China moving in this different trajectory than we have been moving, we have to do what’s in our national interest and not only in our interest but in the interest of our allies and partners.”
That sounds like a diplomatic way of saying that if China and Russia don’t maintain or reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles, the US can be expected to respond in kind by increasing the size and capabilities of its nuclear forces. Let the negotiations begin.