Maintaining Global Strategic Stability, Reducing Risks of Nuclear Conflicts
– Statement by H.E. Mr. Fu Cong, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of MFA, at the 16th PIIC Beijing Seminar on International Security
Shenzhen, 16 October 2019
At the outset, I would like to thank the co-hosts for inviting me to address this seminar. It is a pleasure to share my observations on the global strategic security situation as well as my thoughts on how to maintain global strategic stability and reduce the risks of nuclear conflict.
The global strategic security situation has dramatically worsened over the past few years. Unilateralism and hegemonism is rising in international relations, posing major threats to the international order based upon international law. Returning to the cold war mentality, the US has withdrawn from or renegaded on a host of multilateral arms control agreements, with the aim of seeking unilateral and overwhelming military superiority. These actions have fundamentally changed the international strategic security landscape.
First, mutual trust and cooperation between major powers have been severely eroded. In addition to the “American first” policy, the US administration has publicly targeted China and Russia as major strategic competitors, and has taken a series of measures to significantly enhance its strategic capabilities. The keynote of the US Nuclear Posture Review is confrontation, with nuclear deterrent strategies specifically tailored for China and Russia. Unsubstantiated accusations against China have become a constant fixture of all the public speeches and statements of the senior officials of the U.S. State Department in charge of arms control and non-proliferation. Such behaviors are undermining the strategic trust and creating obstacles for coordination on strategic security issues between the two countries.
Second, the global strategic stability is being seriously undermined. Putting more emphasis on the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy, the US has adopted a more aggressive nuclear deterrence strategy oriented towards war-fighting capabilities, while at the same time accelerating the development and deployment of global missile defense systems, as well as the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) system. It has also publicly announced outer space and cyber space as battleground and has stepped up its buildup of military capabilities in these and other new domains. These actions which are aimed at seeking overwhelming strategic advantages will not only bring about strategic security dilemmas for other countries, but will eventually harm the US own national security interests.
Third, international norms and multilateral regimes are under severe stress. The unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue has gravely damaged the international non-proliferation regime. The U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty has resulted in major setbacks for international endeavors of nuclear disarmament. The US initiative on “Creating Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND)” , which is widely perceived by the international community as a ploy to shirk its own responsibilities on nuclear disarmament, has the potential to undermine the authority of the existing multilateral arms control mechanisms, such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the United Nations. These behaviors can only aggravate the imbalance and disorder in the field of global strategic security and international arms control.
Fourth, the deficit of global security governance is becoming more prominent. Some basic consensus of the international community underlining global strategic stability are being challenged. Meanwhile, with the rapid scientific advancement, emerging technologies in outer space, cyberspace and artificial intelligence (AI) have also brought about new developments that are eroding the global strategic stability traditionally based on nuclear weapons. The absence of international rules regulating these new domains is posing new challenges to international security governance.
Continued erosion of global strategic stability would inevitably lead to a relapse of nuclear arms race. And the risks of nuclear conflicts would increase. To prevent such a situation from happening, China would like to propose the following:
First, all nuclear-weapon states should take measures to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines. This could include reiterating the famous quotation that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, abandoning the strategy of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons or the launch-on-warning strategy, and refraining from expanding the scope of nuclear deterrence, or the development of low yield nuclear warheads. All nuclear-weapon states should adopt the “no first use” policy and keep their nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national defence.
Second, nuclear-weapon states should provide unconditional and unambiguous security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States. This would contribute to reducing the motivations for nuclear proliferation, which will in turn help reduce nuclear risks. An international legal instrument on negative security assurances to all non-nuclear-weapon States should be negotiated as soon as possible.
Third, countries should exercise restraint in building and deploying strategic capabilities, so as not to undermine global strategic stability. The development and deployment of a global missile defense system by one nuclear-weapon country may jeopardize or even neutralize the nuclear deterrent capabilities of other states and would be detrimental to mutual trust between major powers and undermine global strategic stability. The deployment of intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region by the US would also trigger confrontation and increase the risks of an arms race.
Fourth, nuclear disarmament should be pursued in a reasonable and pragmatic manner and guided by the principles of “maintaining global strategic stability” and “undiminished security for all”. As the countries possessing the largest nuclear arsenals, the U.S. and Russia have a special and primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament. They should extend the New START, and, on that basis, further reduce their nuclear weapons, so as to create conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to participate in the negotiation process of nuclear disarmament.
Fifth, nuclear-weapon-states should enhance dialogue on nuclear doctrines and strategies. The complicated international security situation highlights the urgency for more dialogues in order to objectively assess each other’s strategic intentions, and fully understand and respect each other’s security concerns, so as to prevent accidents and crisis caused by strategic misjudgments, and avoid major powers competition becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states should also strengthen communications to work together towards the ultimate goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.
Sixth, nuclear non-proliferation issues should be resolved through political and diplomatic means. The JCPOA is an important component of the international non-proliferation architecture, and should be implemented fully and effectively. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will contribute to regional peace and stability and the reduction of nuclear risks. In this respect, parties concerned should spare no efforts in maintaining the momentum of dialogue and detente on the Peninsula. Efforts should also be made to achieve progress on the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction through the active implementation of the relevant UNGA decision adopted last year.
Seventh, we should properly address the challenges created by emerging technologies. The rapid development of technologies in outer space, cyberspace and AI has brought about complicated and profound impacts on the global strategic stability. Military applications of these emerging technologies need to be regulated and we need new approaches to deal with these new threats.
Turning to China, China’s nuclear doctrine and policy are highly stable, coherent and consistent, which has been reiterated clearly in China’s National Defense in the New Era, the white paper issued this year. China has always adhered to the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and has unconditionally committed itself not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States and nuclear-weapon-free zones. China has kept its nuclear force at the minimal level required for national security. China never has, and never will participate in any kind of nuclear arms race. China never deployed nuclear weapons in other countries, nor provided nuclear umbrella to other countries. China has shown maximum transparency in its nuclear strategy, exercised the utmost restraint on the development of its nuclear force, and adopted an extremely prudent attitude toward the use of nuclear weapons. This posture in itself constitutes a positive factor for maintaining global strategic stability and reducing nuclear risks.
China attaches great importance to and actively participated in the cooperation of the P5, and has done its fair share to help revitalize the P5 process and achieve concrete outcomes. As coordinator of the P5 cooperation process for the last year, China hosted the P5 Conference in Beijing last January, at which consensus on a number of important issues was reached, including making “dialogue on nuclear doctrines and policies” a permanent agenda item for the P5 process. This demonstrates a positive attitude on the part of the P5 to jointly address the challenges in international security. China will continue to work with the other P5 partners to forge consensus in the field of strategic security, and will continue to advocate major power coordination instead of competition, and win-win cooperation instead of zero-sum games, so as to make the world a better and safer place to live.
In this connection, I would like to take this opportunity to talk briefly about the collapse of the INF Treaty, and the so-called “China-U.S.-Russia trilateral arms control negotiation”.
China expresses its deep regret over the U.S.’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty. It is of China’s view that the U.S. withdrawal will have a direct negative impact on global strategic stability, on peace and security in Europe and Asia-Pacific region, as well as the international arms control regime. The fact that the U.S. has conducted a ground-based intermediate-range cruise missile test less than three weeks after its withdrawal from the Treaty shows that its withdrawal was meant to free its hands in developing advanced weaponry in order to seek unilateral military advantage.
China firmly opposes the U.S deployment of ground-based intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s true that China possesses intermediate-range missiles, but all of them are based on our own territory. And they are purely for defensive purposes, and do not pose threat to anyone, least of all the US. In contrast, the U.S. missiles, if deployed, would be in a forward-deployment mode, virtually on China’s doorsteps. Should that happen, China would have no choice but to take necessary countermeasures in defence of its national security. China urges the U.S. and other countries concerned to exercise restraint and prudence on this matter.
On the so-called trilateral negotiations proposed by the U.S., China has made its position very clear on repeated occasions, i.e. China has no interest in participating in a nuclear arms reduction negotiation with the U.S. or Russia, given the huge gap between China’s nuclear arsenal and those of the U.S. and Russia. It’s the consensus view of the international community that the U.S. and Russia, as the countries possessing the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenals, bear special and primary responsibilities on nuclear disarmament, and should further drastically reduce their nuclear weapons, so as to create conditions for other countries to participate in the nuclear disarmament negotiations. Although it’s not the time for China to participate in the trilateral negotiation at this stage, it does not mean China is not participating in the international nuclear disarmament efforts. China has taken, and will continue to take, an active part in the international arms control negotiations and discussions under multilateral framework, such as the UN, the Conference on Disarmament, and the P5 cooperation process.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that no matter how the international situation may change, China will remain committed to peaceful development, and will continue to advocate for multilateralism and for global strategic stability. China will always be a positive force for international arms control and disarmament efforts and a contributor to the lofty cause of safeguarding peace and security of the mankind.