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Statement by Director-General FU Cong at the EU Non-proliferation and Disarmament Conference

2020-11-13 19:57

On November 12, 2020, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Foreign Ministry FU Cong attended the EU Non-proliferation and Disarmament Conference via video link and made a statement centred on the theme of "Rebuilding Mutual Trust in Arms Control, Non-proliferation and Disarmament:the Way Ahead". The full text of Director-General FU's statement is as follows:

Good evening from Beijing to everybody. Let me start by thanking the organizer for inviting me to this important conference. I want to thank the High Representative Borrell for his video message. China attaches great importance to the role that EU plays in the arms control and disarmament, I personally look forward to a bilateral consultation with EU early next month. We have so many things to talk about, and there are so many things on which we can cooperate,not the least on the issue of small arms which High Representative Borrell has mentioned. I also want to thank the High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu for the opening speech. I share many of the points that she raised during her speech,and I also want to, in particular, congratulate her on the success of the UN General Assembly First Committee despite the difficult circumstances. Now let me return to my statement of today's discussion.

Today, international strategic situation is faced with the gravest challenges since the end of Cold War, and the international arms control architecture is at a critical juncture. The pursuit of unilateralist policies and withdrawal from a large number of international treaties and organizations by the US have dealt heavy blows to the multilateral and bilateral arms control and disarmament regime established since the end of WWII. Cold War mentality and double standard are impeding international non-proliferation cooperation and undermining the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation mechanism. The development of science and technology is bringing forth complex and profound repercussions on strategic stability and giving rise to a host of humanitarian, legal and ethical challenges. Against this backdrop, it is pertinent and timely to exchange views on the theme of "Rebuilding Mutual Trust in Arms Control, Non-proliferation and Disarmament". It is both a pleasure and an honor for me to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic. In my view, in order to move international arms control and non-proliferation process forward, concerted efforts need to be made in the following areas.

First, we should adhere to the basic principles and concepts of arms control.

The purpose of international arms control is to enhance the security of all countries through cooperation, so as to achieve equal, common and universal security. Arms control that aims at increasing one's own security at the expense of the security of others is neither acceptable nor sustainable. Over the past century, despite the changes in arms control both in terms of content and paradigm, the basic international consensus has always been that maintaining strategic balance and stability should be a basic principle of arms control. However, what the United States has done in recent years has violated this basic principle. Its real intention is to negate the checks and balances between the major powers and establish a uni-polar world. That is the root cause of the stalemate in the international arms control and disarmament process. Competition between major powers is only natural and even inevitable. What is important is to search for win-win solutions instead of playing a zero-sum game, to keep this competition under control by maintaining global strategic stability, so as to reduce the risks of war. Recently, some US officials have come up with some absurd theories or coinages, such as "three largest nuclear-weapon states" or depicting arms control as a battle between democracies and non-democracies. These rhetorics distort the basic narratives of international arms control efforts, harm the atmosphere of international dialogues and can not be conducive to rebuilding trust. The international community should be vigilant against them.

Second, we should safeguard the existing international arms control architecture.

As Rome was not built in a day, progress could only be made by building upon past achievements. The existing international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including the bilateral arms control treaties between the United States and Russia, is an important component of the international security system, and the basis for resolving security dilemmas through a cooperative approach and for realizing common security and universal disarmament. That system is a valuable common asset of the international community, and should be strengthened, rather than weakened. That continuous withdrawal of the US from international treaties has not only damaged its own credibility, but also jeopardized international security. The international community should be united in rejecting the totally irresponsible actions taken by the current US administration aimed at sabotaging the international arms control architecture. The immediate priority now is to urge the United States to respond as soon as possible to Russia's call for the unconditional extension of the New START. In addition, the international community should adhere to the existing international consensus, including the Final Document of SSOD-I and the outcome documents of the previous NPT Review Conferences, highlight the special and primary responsibilities of the two largest nuclear-weapon States for nuclear disarmament, and say no to the words and deeds that overthrow or undermine international consensus on arms control.

Third, we should further strengthen and expand the international arms control architecture.

While upholding the past achievements of the existing international arms control system, we also need to keep moving with the times and constantly renew and improve the system. The international community need to agree that fruits of scientific and technological development should be used to the maximum extent possible for peaceful development, and that there should be limits to their military utilization. We should push forward negotiations on cyber space, outer space, artificial intelligence, bio-technology and others, with a view to concluding legally-binding international instruments or codes of conduct as soon as possible, and establishing relevant international mechanisms, so as to guard against or reduce potential risks and challenges that these technologies could bring to international stability and security, due to the absence of international rules.

The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has put bio-security under the spotlight, and highlighted the importance and urgency of strengthening global bio-security governance. In this context, it is important to restart the negotiation of BWC verification protocol as soon as possible, with a view to establishing an effective international verification mechanism to safeguard bio-security. We hope that next year's review conference of the Convention could make a decision in that respect. At the same time, it is also necessary to establish a scientific advisory body under the framework of the Convention and formulate codes of conduct to better regulate biological scientific research and promote the healthy development of biotechnology.

With the rapid development of digital economy, the issue of data security becomes increasingly prominent and calls for a global solution. It is high time that we formulated global rules reflecting the interests and concerns of the majority of countries on the basis of universal participation. For the purpose of effectively dealing with the risks and challenges associated with data security, China has lately launched the Global Initiative on Data Security, which calls on all countries to take action to prevent and put an end to activities that impair or steal important data of other countries' critical infrastructure, or jeopardize personal information, oppose mass surveillance against other countries through ICTs, remove mandatory requirements for domestic companies to store in their own territory data generated and obtained overseas, and require enterprises not to install backdoors in their products and services. This initiative provides a basis for the formulation of global rules and represents also solemn commitments by China on data security. China hopes that our interlocutors could support the initiative, and we also welcomes suggestions for improvement.

Fourth, we should resolve non-proliferation disputes through peaceful means.

Non-proliferation issues such as the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the Iranian nuclear issue are complex issues that can only be resolved through political and diplomatic means. Facts have shown that maximum pressure and the threat of force will only make the issues more complicated. Sanctions are not the end, nor a panacea. Sanctions are means, so are the lifting or relaxing of sanctions. If the legitimate security and development concerns of Iran or DPRK are not properly addressed, attempts to impose solutions through sanctions will go nowhere.

Under the current situation, all parties should firmly fulfill the JCPOA obligations and resolutely oppose unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction. The parties concerned should resolve their differences in the implementation of the agreement through dialogue and consultation, and within the framework of the Joint Commission, by restoring the balance of rights and obligations under the agreement. China also attaches importance to the concerns of a new platform for dialogues on all issues related to regional security and stability. Trying to force DPRK to abandon its entire nuclear weapons program in one go without addressing its security and economic concerns is unlikely to succeed. The best way forward is to make progress through a synchronized, reciprocal and phased process. China urges the United States to demonstrate its good faith by responding to the legitimate and reasonable concerns of DPRK on security and development with practical actions, so as to bring the denuclearization of the Peninsula back on track.

Fifth, we should establish an inclusive and effective international non-proliferation mechanism.

It is the common responsibility of the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. However, for a long time, the existing export control mechanisms have been hindered by the lack of representation and double standard or even outright discrimination. In recent years, these problems have only been further exacerbated. The United States is trying to forge an alliance based on ideological demarcation against high-tech exports to countries like China, and transform these export control mechanisms into tools for high-tech blockade of, and decoupling from, China. For that purpose, the US has strenuously obstructed China from joining these mechanisms. Such practices have seriously undermined the foundation of international non-proliferation cooperation and disrupted normal international cooperation on science and technology and trade. The international community should be in line with genuine multilateralism and the rule of law, oppose such tendencies of politicization and polarization, and endeavor to establish a fair and inclusive non-proliferation control regime based on equal participation of all countries.

In the Q&A session, Director-General FU responded to some of the remarks made by Christopher Ford in his intervention, and answered the questions from the audience. Excerpts of the transcript is as follows:

Before answering the question from the audience. I want to response to what Chris has said, so as to dispel some of the misinformation.

First and foremost, on the bilateral dialogue. I think, Chris, you may not get updated to the latest information, even the internal information. Indeed, you wrote to me last year,and later on someone called Marshall Billingslea came up and he also wrote to me. I did respond to him, thinking that he was a representative of the US Government. Of course, I'm not saying that you're not. But indeed, I did respond to him and there were several rounds of exchanges of letters. For your information,we even had a phone conversation, even though that conversation was not very pleasant. In addition to what you said tonight, I also read some of your previous statements, saying that China has not responded to this request of bilateral consultation so on and so forth. Let me say that this is not true. As a matter of fact, we had been responding to the US through email, letters, and we even talked on telephone. We even went so far as to say that we would be ready to talk to the other side, the only question was that Billingslea insisted on having a face-to-face conversation dialogue, and I proposed a virtual one because of the pandemic. So that is the update. So Chris, you need to be updated by your colleagues,you can go back and check with your colleagues. I also want to emphasize that China is open to bilateral dialogue with the US, like we are open to dialogues with EU and other partners. But such dialogue has to be based on mutual respect. It should not become a venue for blackmail, which Billingslea tried to turn that conversation into. So that is the first issue I want to clarify so that there will be no further misinformation from the US side.

The second one I want to say is about what Chris has said that the US has been very serious about compliance with the arms control treaties. I know that the US has been trying to withdraw from all these arms control treaties, and now they said they withdrew because of their concern about compliance. I don't think this can fool anybody. We all know the reason. That the parties have concerns on compliance of the other side is nothing extraordinary. And the best way or the normal way to resolve all these concerns is through dialogue, not by withdrawing from the treaties. We all know that the US are withdrawing from the treaties because they thought that these treaties are binding their hands in expanding military capabilities. And that is the reason why they withdrew from the treaty, not because they have concerns on the other side not being in compliance with. I can give you one example, the JCPOA, which the US has withdrawn from, but which side did not comply with that agreement before the US? Even the US government says that all sides are compliant, and the US still withdrew from that agreement. On the New START, the US government has said that they have no concern about the compliance with the treaty. So why don't you extend that treaty? Why do you come up with all these excuses to delay its extension? All these arguments about being serious about compliance is not going to fool anybody.

The third issue I want to talk is about the arms race. China has not engaged in arms race for the past decades. And that is the whole reason why China's nuclear forces have been maintained at such a low level, any objective person would understand that. So accusing China of engaging in an arms race, while the US is spending 1.2 trillion dollars to upgrade its nuclear arsenal, does not hold water. We all know that Billingslea once said that "the US can outspend China and Russia into oblivion" and then you accuse China of engaging in arms race? Come on! Chris.

The fourth one, we again heard this nonsense about a communist party or communism versus democracy. As I said in my statement, if the US sees arms control from that perspective, I can't see how we can make progress. And that's why I said in my statement, one of the basic principle is, admittedly, we do have different ideologies, but that should not prevent us from making compromises on arms control issues, because that is more important than ideological debates. But the US, during the Trump administration, has introduced this ideological discussion or debate into the arms control discussion. I think that is one of the reasons why we cannot make progress. During the Cold War,despite the ideological differences, the two sides could talk to each other and reached agreements. If you insist that this is a battle or a fight between democracies and non-democracies, I can't see how we can even sit down and talk about all these issues. So,that is why I said in my prepared statement,we should keep all these ideological debates out of the discussion of arms control. And that is the only way we can make progress. But unfortunately, the current administration of the US has been propagating all these ideological differences internationally,in United Nations,and in other international fora. And that is not being very helpful. I do hope the new administration can change course on that at least.

Chair: If the US and Russia commit themselves to reducing their nuclear arsenals, will China join the nuclear disarmament negotiation?

FU: I would say that is a big"if"--if the US agrees to reduce. Judging from what the Trump administration has been doing, obviously they have not reduced. Instead, they are building up. What they are lowering is the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. We have all read the NPR, haven't we? What they said is that they want to build more nuclear weapons, lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapon, and expand the scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons. Can you imagine they even talk about using nuclear weapons against cyber attacks? What I want to say is the question was premised on one thing,namely the US is going to reduce. As I said, that is frankly a big "if", and we don't believe it.

China's policy will not change. The US officials have been saying that China is changing its policy on minimum deterrence capabilities. That is not true. That is another piece of misinformation. So when a country that is in possession of 6,000 nuclear warheads, talks about a threat or being threatened by another country, which they themselves say have only about 200 nuclear warhead, and claims that country poses a strategic threat to the US. What do you call that? I call that paranoid. So saying that China is engaging in an arms race is totally untrue. China will maintain its minimum nuclear deterrence and no-first-use policy. By definition, China will not expand its nuclear arsenal to a large extent. But that does not mean that China could not modernize. Chris mentioned that there is a dramatic reduction of threats around China. We don't see that, frankly speaking, instead we see more threats from the US. That is the basic point. We do not deny that China is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. But so do all the other nuclear weapon states, the US in particular. France and the UK are also doing that.

Chair: As you said that China is not extending its nuclear weapons stockpile to a large extent, but it is modernizing, which relates to the question of transparency. Could you go into that a little bit more?

FU: On transparency, as we always say, there are basically two dimensions to transparency. One dimension is the doctrine, and the other is the number. In terms of doctrines, China is extremely transparent. We advocate the no-first-use policy and the minimum deterrence capability. We hope that the other sides can also be as transparent as China. There was a question from the viewers about what China's initiative would be for the next two years. We urge all nuclear weapon states to come on board with China to agree to the no-first-use policy, we see a glimmer of hope from the platform of the Democratic Party. We hope that can materialize. That is one of the initiatives.

In terms of the numbers. There are good reasons why China cannot be transparent in numbers. Because China has no-first-use policy and is faced with a strategic competitor as big as the US which has 6000 nuclear warheads. In addition, they are developing missile defense, deploying all these missiles defense system around China, talking about deploying the intermediate-range missiles around China. Under such circumstances, how can you expect China to be transparent, as some people would hope, in terms of numbers? That will undermine China's strategic capability. So that is not only a matter of principle, but also a matter of strategic importance.

And I hope that I have answered that question in terms of the transparency, but it doesn't mean that China cannot do anything. That is the reason why we proposed in the P5 process, that we should discuss all these issues. Unfortunately, it is the US,and Chris himself,that have been belittling the P5 process, saying that it is not important so on and so forth. But we do hope that the P5 mechanism could be better used. We would venture to suggest that the P5 mechanism that has been established under the NPT review conference can expand beyond the nuclear issue. It should be a mechanism for P5 discussion on all issues that have an impact on strategic stability,including nuclear weapons, missile defense, outer space, and all these issues need to be discussed under the P5 mechanism.

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