China calls on Washington, Moscow to preserve nuclear treaty

BEIJING — China called Saturday for Washington to negotiate with Russia instead of pulling out of a nuclear arms treaty the Trump administration sees as a restraint on its ability to compete with Beijing and Moscow.

China's foreign ministry ruled out negotiating a new multilateral pact to replace the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The U.S. decision on Friday to pull out of the INF might trigger "adverse consequences," said a ministry statement, echoing warnings the move might lead to a new arms race.

President Donald Trump accuses Moscow of violating the 1987 agreement but also sees it as an obstacle to confronting China's growing military capabilities.

Beijing has the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal with about 280 warheads, compared with 6,450 for the United States and 6,850 for Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Beijing has been spending heavily to develop longer-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

"China is opposed to the U.S. withdrawal and urges the U.S. and Russia to properly resolve differences through constructive dialogue," said a foreign ministry statement.

The treaty plays a "significant role" in "safeguarding global strategic balance," the ministry said.

The government said, however, that it opposed possible efforts to create a new agreement to extend to other countries.

"China opposes the multilateralization of this treaty," the statement said. "What is imperative at the moment is to uphold and implement the existing treaty instead of creating a new one."

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