US President Donald Trump on Friday said that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential nuclear deal with Russia and China.
“We’re talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less and maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now. … And China is frankly also – we discussed the possibility of a three-way deal instead of a two-way deal. And China, I’ve already spoken to them. They very much would like to be a part of that deal. In fact, during the trade talks, we started talking about that,” Trump said.
He added, “I think we’re going to probably start something up shortly with Russia and ourselves maybe to start off. I think China will be added down the road.”
Trump later said the nuclear deal is one of the topics he went into “great detail” about with Putin on the call.
CNN reported last week that the Trump administration is aiming for a major nuclear deal with Russia and China.
The White House has been conducting intense interagency talks to develop options for the President to pursue such a deal, building off another nuclear pact, the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, multiple White House officials told CNN last week.
Trump would like to see it become one of his signature foreign policy achievements, the officials said.
“The President has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles,” said a senior White House official. “We have an ambition to give the President options as quickly as possible to give him as much space on the calendar as possible.”
“This is something that no administration has tried,” the senior official said. “But I would argue no administration has tried what [Trump] tried with North Korea for example.”
But the scale of those ambitions, Trump’s past criticism of New START as a “bad deal” and the role of national security adviser John Bolton – a longstanding critic of arms control agreements – have some observers concerned that the administration’s true goal might be find a way to exit a second nuclear pact it sees as constraining and outdated.
“The only reason you bring up China is if you have no intention of extending the New START Treaty,” said Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Bell and other arms control experts worry that before too long, the world’s two largest nuclear powers might shed limits on their nuclear arsenals for the first time in decades.
Administration officials say their aim is to revamp a dusty pact for a new age and increase global security.
“If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure that it fits 2021 and beyond, President Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good solid arms control agreement we ought to get one,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress last month.
“We need to make sure we’ve got all of the parties that are relevant as a component of this as well,” Pompeo said. “Other countries besides Russia and China.”