Trump pushing for three-way arms control with Russia, China

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday Feb. 28, 2020, en route to North Charleston, S.C., for a campaign rally. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has informed Moscow that the U.S. is open to holding a summit with other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in hopes of pushing for three-way arms control pact with Russia and China, a senior administration official said Friday.

The New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the U.S. and Russia, expires in 2021. There has been talk of negotiating an extension to the existing treaty, but the White House thinks the next generation of arms control must also include China, which is expected to at least more than double its stockpile during the next decade

Russia has asked the U.S. to extend the New START treaty for up to five years, but Moscow also has embraced the idea of bringing China into an agreement. The U.S. and Russia have has three bilateral meetings. The U.S. and China have discussed having a similar dialogue, but the planned meeting would be the first time that representatives of all three countries would be at the same table discussing the issue.

"Russia wants to make a deal very much on arms control and nuclear. And that's smart. And so do we. We think it would be a good thing," Trump said at a news conference in December in London with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "And we’ll also certainly bring in, as you know, China. And we may bring them in later, or we may bring them in now."

China has nuclear weapons, ballistic missile capabilities and the know-how to make chemical and biological weapons — and it is updating its nuclear arsenal. Beijing also has signed various international weapons agreements, but none limiting nuclear weapons.

The time and place of the meeting has not been determined, but a senior administration official said the U.S. will use the gathering to pursue a trilateral arms control agreement that would bring China into the fold. The meeting is expected to include leaders of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The official spoke on condition of anonymity according to White House guidelines.

The United States will use this opportunity to bring both Russia and China into the international arms control framework and head-off a costly arms race, the administration official said.

Tim Morrison, former senior director for countering weapons of mass destruction at the National Security Council at the White House, said other countries might need to be pulled into arms control agreements in the future.

“I think it is essentially the direction of the future not only to bring the Chinese around to the necessity of negotiated restraint on weapons of mass destruction, and particularly nuclear weapons, but also to begin to think about the other nuclear weapon states ... particularly India and Pakistan and focus on how we ensure that we do not face a highly nuclearized security environment in the future," Morrison said at a recent event at George Washington University.