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White House Official: China Should Join Nuclear Arms Talks With Russia

FILE - White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Nov. 4, 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Wednesday that China should join the United States in trilateral arms talks with Russia.

“The president believes that it shouldn’t just be the U.S. and Russia. We think that China is going to need to become involved in any serious arms control negotiation, so we’re going to work on those talks in the coming months and year,” Robert O’Brien said in Washington.

He told a group of 50 foreign ambassadors that U.S. officials would travel to Beijing to discuss reducing the “existential” threats of nuclear war and nuclear proliferation.

“The days of unilateral American disarmament are over,” O’Brien noted in remarks that focused on the Trump administration's foreign policy.

Trump last year said he discussed a new accord on limiting nuclear arms with Russian President Vladimir Putin and hoped to extend that to China, but Beijing has so far refused to take part.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last month that Russia would take part in potential trilateral talks but that he wouldn’t “force China to change” its position.

Eye on Chinese buildup

While highlighting great-power competition as the top priority of the Trump administration, Trump’s national security adviser said the U.S. was keeping a wary eye on China’s military buildup in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

O’Brien also pointed to Putin’s huge investment in the Russian military and Moscow’s continuing military involvement in countries like Ukraine, Syria and Libya.

In his speech Wednesday, he also stressed the need for Russian and Chinese help in the denuclearization of North Korea.

“The Chinese have to enforce the sanctions against North Korea. They’ve got to stop ship-to-ship transfers. ... We need the Chinese to assist us with pressuring the North Koreans to come to the table,” O’Brien said.

The national security adviser expressed hope that North Korea would meet with the U.S. again in Sweden. Last October, working-level nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang broke down in Stockholm.