U.S. says China is resisting nuclear arms talks

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai
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By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - China is resisting bilateral talks with the United States on nuclear weapons, the U.S. disarmament ambassador told a U.N. conference on Tuesday, as Washington seeks to advance efforts to reduce nuclear arms stockpiles.

"Despite the PRC's dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States," said Robert Wood, referring to the People's Republic of China.

"To date Beijing has not been willing to engage meaningfully or establish expert discussions similar to those we have with Russia. We sincerely hope that will change," he added.

In an apparent rebuttal, China's envoy later told the same virtual U.N. meeting that Beijing was prepared for dialogue.

"We stand ready to carry out positive dialogue and exchange with all parties to jointly explore effective measures to reduce nuclear risk and to contribute to global strategic security," Ji Zhaoyu said.

The exchange came at a discussion on the Prevention of Nuclear War at the 65-member U.N. Conference on Disarmament based in Geneva. The body, which makes decisions by consensus, has not reached a major agreement in decades but is often the theatre for tense rhetorical exchanges between superpowers.

Earlier this year, Russia and the United States agreed to extend the New START arms control treaty for five years, preserving the last treaty limiting deployments of the world's two largest strategic nuclear arsenals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden are set to discuss arms control and security issues at a meeting and strategic nuclear stability will be on the agenda. Wood said on Tuesday he hoped that such bilateral discussions may lay the groundwork for nuclear disarmament and future arms control treaties.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean)