MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. Moscow respects Beijing’s wish to avoid international talks on arms control and will not force China to take part in such consultations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Channel One’s Bolshaya Igra (or Great Game) show.
According to him, in June, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of the United discussed issues related to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire in 2021.
"US President Donald Trump pointed to the need to engage China in talks. Vladimir Putin responded that Russia had consulted with the Chinese and they had publicly commented on the United States’ proposal. They said their strategic nuclear forces were incomparable to those of Russia and the United States and they saw no reason to participate in such talks. We told the Americans that the Chinese had determined their position and we respect it," Lavrov stressed. "If Washington considers engaging China in talks to be crucial, it should speak with Beijing," he added.
"In theory, we are ready to discuss multilateral approaches, but in this case, France and the United Kingdom should also participate - if we talk about officially recognized nuclear powers. There are also unrecognized ones. This process will have to begin one day but we will not force our strategic partners from China into talks," Lavrov noted.
When speaking about the possibility of extending New START, Lavrov emphasized that it was still unclear. He noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a recent meeting with senior officials from the Defense Ministry and the Russian Armed Forces that Moscow was "ready to extend the treaty right away without any preconditions." The Russian top diplomat pointed out that Moscow expected Washington to give a meaningful response "because, like President Putin said, if the treaty disappears, the last tool to control arms and ensure strategic stability will be gone."
New START, which came into force in 2011, limits Russia and the US to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.
The Treaty is set to remain in effect for ten years (until 2021) unless a new document is signed to replace it. The document can also be extended for no more than five years (that is, until 2026) by mutual agreement of the parties.