U.S. seeking strategic and nuclear dialogue with China
Friday, August 20, 2021 10:39 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- The U.S. government is pursuing bilateral dialogue with China on strategic issues like nuclear forces and deterrent policy to create ''strategic stability'' between the two big powers, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

Bilateral military exchanges have been suspended since January following the U.S. announcement of an arms sale to Taiwan. But the official said, ''We hope that, when they resume, this will be a priority for China, as it is for the U.S.''

The Nuclear Posture Review -- the new nuclear policy blueprint the administration of President Barack Obama unveiled in April, said, ''With China, the purpose of a dialogue on strategic stability is to provide a venue and mechanism for each side to communicate its views about the other's strategies, policies and programs on nuclear weapons and other strategic capabilities.''

''The goal of such a dialogue is to enhance confidence, improve transparency, and reduce mistrust,'' the NPR stated. But it is uncertain when the dialogue will start because ''the interruption in military-to-military dialogue has gone on longer'' than the United States expected, according to the official.

The official said, ''We can imagine many important topics that we would like to cover, over a decade of dialogue with China.'' ''We would like to explain our concepts of strategic stability and express our concerns about the things China is doing that are troubling from our perspective.''

The official, who declined to be named, also said, ''We do not understand the type of nuclear force that will result from the current buildup in China, and we find China's lack of transparency troubling.''

A recent annual report presented to Congress by the Pentagon focusing on Chinese military capabilities called ''Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2010'' shed light on its nuclear buildup and Washington's concerns.

''China is both qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile forces,'' the report said, referring to missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to the U.S. homeland.

''China is also currently working on a range of technologies to attempt to counter U.S. and other militaries' ballistic missile defense systems,'' including maneuvering re-entry vehicles, multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, decoys, chaff and jamming, it stated.

The official said the United States has taken seriously several nuclear weapons systems. Among them is the DF-31A, an intercontinental-range ballistic missile which can hit the U.S. mainland. Another is the DF-41, a more sophisticated type of ICBM carrying MIRV that can attack multiple targets simultaneously. Details of the development process of the DF-41 are unknown.

He also raised concern about the uncertain status of a newly deployed strategic submarine which may carry long-range nuclear warheads. ''How many will they have? Will they be at sea all the time? Will they operate them the way other navies do, continuous at-sea deployment? Maybe not,'' the official said.

The operational status of nuclear-weapon submarines has strategically significant implications because these submarines have more survivability thanks to their invisibility in waters.

Survivability of nuclear weapons gives more assured capability to hit enemy targets even after a nuclear first-strike attack, which is crucial to the credibility of a nuclear deterrent.

The U.S. Navy has 14 strategic submarines carrying nuclear warheads like the W76 and W88 that can extend deterrent effects to its allies including Japan and South Korea, which have been under the U.S. ''nuclear umbrella'' since the Cold War era.

The official also stressed the U.S. willingness to address Chinese concerns. ''We understand that China has its own concerns about strategic stability and its own concepts of strategic stability...We have to be committed to understanding China's views and doing something more than just expressing our own concerns.''

But he also said, ''We are willing to discuss anything China would like to discuss. That does not mean we are willing to tell China everything China wants to hear.''

The official noted that the U.S. missile defense system is ''not intended to negate China's strategic nuclear deterrent.'' The Chinese authorities have a strong concern about the United States deploying missile defenses because they could deny Chinese second-strike capability, meaning that China would lose its nuclear retaliatory power to deter the United States from a first strike.

''We are not interested in having a Cold War-like relationship with China, but nor do we want a relationship where we're competing in terms of nuclear weapons and missiles for strategic advantage,'' he said, suggesting that Washington would reject application of the theory of mutual assured destruction, or MAD, to future U.S.-China relations.

MAD is a central strategic concept during the Cold War that was based on ''balance of terror,'' under which the United States and the Soviet Union deterred each other's first strikes by mutual threat backed by tens of thousands of retaliatory nuclear weapons. MAD is said to have accelerated their nuclear arms race.

However, the official indicated the United States would hope to create a strategic circumstance in which Chinese deterrent capability has some credit, which could lead to a mutual deterrent structure and control future nuclear expansion.

He also emphasized the importance of consultation with Japan, a country to which he thinks Chinese nuclear forces pose a real existent threat. ''This is a dialogue that will touch directly on Japanese interests...we seek to advance Japan's interests in this dialogue,'' he said.