China calls on Big 5 to make firm commitment on no-first-use of nukes

China hopes that the five nuclear-weapons states will abandon the policies of nuclear deterrence based on the first-use of such weapons.

China hopes that the five nuclear-weapons states, namely China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States, will abandon the policies of nuclear deterrence based on the first-use of such weapons and make firm commitments on mutual no-first-use, a Chinese arms control official said yesterday.

Fu Cong, director-general of the department of arms control at the foreign ministry, made the remarks during a press briefing after the leaders of the five countries on Monday issued a joint statement on preventing nuclear war and avoiding an arms race.

In the rare joint statement, the US, China, Russia, Britain and France reaffirmed their goal of creating a world free of atomic weapons and avoiding a nuclear conflict.

The five nuclear powers also committed to full future disarmament from atomic weapons, which have only been used in conflict in the US bombings of Japan at the end of World War II.

As an initiator of the joint statement, China has made great contribution to disarmament, Fu said, adding that the statement reflects the largest convergence of the Big 5's nuclear policies.

"China hopes that the Big 5 nations will further their efforts on this basis, abandon the policies of nuclear deterrence based on the first-use of nuclear weapons, make commitments of mutual no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and jointly negotiate and conclude an international legal instrument in this regard," Fu said.

"China is willing to continue to work towards this end," he added.

"The US and Russia still possess 90 percent of the nuclear warheads on Earth," Fu noted.

"They must reduce their nuclear arsenal in an irreversible and legally binding manner."

Fu dismissed US claims that China was vastly increasing its nuclear capabilities.

"China has always adopted the no first-use policy and we maintain our nuclear capabilities at the minimal level required for our national security," he said.

He said China would "continue to modernize its nuclear arsenal for reliability and safety issues."

Fu dismissed speculation over the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons near the Taiwan Strait.

"Nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent, they are not for war or fighting," he insisted.

While the US and Russia have had a formal strategic stability dialogue since the days of the Cold War, producing several disarmament agreements, that is not the case between US and China.

Monday's joint statement on nuclear weapons was a rare moment of consensus between the United Nations' five permanent Security Council members.

"We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented," said permanent UN Security Council members China, France, Russia, the UK and United States, adding: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."

"As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war."

The statement was issued after the latest review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – which first came into force in 1970 – was postponed from its scheduled date of January 4 to later in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five world powers said they saw "the avoidance of war between nuclear-weapon states and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities."

The statement also pledged to abide by a key article in the NPT under which states committed to full future disarmament from nuclear weapons.

"We remain committed to our NPT obligations, including our Article 6 obligation" on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict control.

According to the UN, a total of 191 states have joined the treaty. The provisions of the treaty call for a review of its operation every five years.

China's vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying the pledge "will help increase mutual trust and replace competition among major powers with coordination and cooperation."

Russia welcomed the declaration by the atomic powers and expressed hope it would reduce global tensions.

"We hope that, in the current difficult conditions of international security, the approval of such a political statement will help reduce the level of international tensions," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

France also released a statement, underscoring that the five powers reiterated their determination for nuclear arms control and disarmament. They would continue bilateral and multilateral approaches to nuclear arms control.

The joint statement also came as the world powers seek to reach agreement with Iran on reviving the 2015 deal over its controversial nuclear drive, which was rendered moribund by the US walking out of the accord in 2018.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the Big 5 joint statement.

"The secretary-general appreciates the recognition by the nuclear-weapon states of their need to comply with their bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments, including their binding obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons related to nuclear disarmament," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

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