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Why the U.S. Is Quitting the Nuclear Arms Treaty
Containment of China behind the exit
By Lan Xinzhen | NO. 45 NOVEMBER 8, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump announced on October 20 that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed with the Soviet Union in 1987. One of the reasons for the exit was that China was not a party to the treaty. This was followed by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton saying on October 22 that the United States faced real threats from China and didn't want to be the only country restricted by the agreement.

The INF is a bilateral treaty, so it is unreasonable for the United States to unilaterally leave it and cite China as one of the reasons. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded on October 23, saying that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and safeguards its legitimate national and security interests. "We will by no means accept any form of blackmail. I once again urge the United States to refrain from going against the trend of the times and think twice before taking any action on this issue," she said.

What is probably behind Trump's withdrawal from the treaty is the desire to increase the U.S. nuclear deterrence ability against other countries and maintain its military dominance in the world.

During the Cold War, nuclear deterrence between the United States and the Soviet Union endangered the survival of human society. Fortunately, rationality prevailed and the two countries signed the INF that mandated them to phase out land-based nuclear rocket systems with a reach of 500 km to 5,500 km and establish a corresponding monitoring regime. The deal was regarded as the most successful arms control treaty during the Cold War.

However, today, as U.S. economic dominance is declining, Trump may have made the decision to leave the INF because he thought it restricted the United States from developing its military and maintain its supremacy.

In recent months, the international community has been paying a lot of attention to the U.S. containment of the Chinese economy as Trump launched a trade war against China, targeting its manufacturing and hi-tech industries. Ironically, more foreign capital has flowed into China in spite of Trump's economic policies. In the first three quarters of the year, China overtook the United States to become the largest destination of foreign investment in the world. U.S. investment in China has not declined; on the contrary, it has increased, growing by 23.6 percent year on year from January to August.

Despite this, the Trump administration has continued the policy of containment toward China. The move is not limited only to the economic field but is multi-dimensional. Trump is also seeking to restrict China's military, as evidenced by his citing China's absence as one of the reasons for ditching the INF.

China maintains a very small nuclear arsenal, and follows the policy of self-defense and minimum deterrence. It is committed to the principle of non-first use of nuclear weapons. Under no circumstances will China use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones.

The United States is the strongest military power in the world and also the country with the largest nuclear arsenal. While the INF covers only land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the United States has a large fleet of aircraft carriers, a variety of sea- and air-launched missiles, as well as advanced missile defense systems. It has an overwhelming edge over China militarily. Therefore, it's curious for Bolton to say that the United States faces real threats from China.

However, although China doesn't pose any threat to U.S. security, its anti-ship ballistic missiles can drive U.S. aircraft carrier combat groups away from its coastline and stop U.S. intervention. This is what Trump doesn't want to see.

It is of great concern that after leaving the INF, the U.S. might also exit the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This will inevitably lead to a new nuclear arms race, when what the world needs, and will hopefully choose, is a community with a shared future for all.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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