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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

China derides US move to place Chinese flags at empty seats in nuclear talks with Russia

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 6:00 AM

China says a move by the United States to place Chinese flags at a table of nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia was an act of "performance art."

China had said it would not be participating in the talks because the US, under President Donald Trump, had unilaterally withdrawn from international treaty after international treaty.

The negotiations in question were on the replacement of New START, a nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia that would expire next February and that has nothing to do with China. Washington had invited Beijing nevertheless and had been planning to portray the Chinese government's refusal to participate as a sign of Beijing's reluctance to take part in any arms control treaty.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea published a Twitter post on Monday with a picture of the negotiating table in the talks in Vienna where Chinese flags were placed at empty seats.

An accompanying text read, "China is a no-show. Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear build-up, and so many other things. We will proceed with #Russia, notwithstanding."

Billingslea did not explain why the national flags of China were placed at the table without the country's approval and when Beijing was never due to participate.

China's mission to the United Nations (UN) in Vienna then posted a screenshot of the US envoy's picture with the comment "US performance art?"

The director general of the arms control department at China's Foreign Ministry, Fu Cong, also said, "What an odd scene! Displaying Chinese National Flags on a negotiating table without China's consent! Good luck on the extension of the New START! Wonder how LOW you can go?"

And Chen Weihua, the European Union (EU) bureau chief for China Daily, posted a comment under Billingslea's tweet, saying, "1. US has kept quitting treaties, so it has left with no credibility. Go back to JCPOA and Paris accord before you make such argument. 2. China has 300 nukes in contrast to 6,000 by US and Russia. So unless you agree to come down to 300 or even 500, you're not making sense."

JCPOA, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the official name of the Iran nuclear deal, a historic multilateral agreement from which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew in 2018. And the Paris Accord is a landmark international agreement on climate change. Trump withdrew from that agreement, too.

Meanwhile, Russia posted pictures of the negotiations after they began, with seats filled and no Chinese flags.

The New START was signed by Washington and Moscow in April 2010. Under the treaty, the two sides agreed to halve the number of their strategic nuclear missiles and restrict the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.

The New START can be extended for another five years, beyond its expiry date in February 2021, by mutual agreement.

The Trump administration had earlier withdrawn from another treaty with Russia, the so-called Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

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