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Extending New START would be good news: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-01-24 20:38

US President Joe Biden delivers his speech after being sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States during his inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, US, Jan 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

US President Joe Biden's proposal to extend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia was welcomed by the Kremlin on Friday, with the caveat that it could only welcome the political will to extend the document, as the details of the proposal were not yet known.

Russia has long proposed prolonging the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, better known as New START, without any conditions or changes, but the previous US administration was attaching a string of unreasonable conditions to extend the pact, which is set to expire on Feb 5.

The new US administration is proposing a five-year extension to the last remaining treaty between the world's two largest nuclear powers, but it is not yet known if it too has attached any conditions.

The significance of keeping this treaty intact goes beyond the bilateral level as it will have a profound impact on the direction of the international nuclear disarmament regime.

Seeking absolute competitive advantages in almost all aspects, the previous US administration viewed arms control as a crucial tool in major power competition and never hesitated to abandon the concept of strategic stability and equilibrium.

Apart from leaving the multilateral Iranian nuclear deal, the Trump administration withdrew the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. It also dropped out of the Arms Trade Treaty, a 2013 pact that regulates the international trade of conventional arms.

The unilateral moves of the Trump administration, together with its plans to deploy missiles to the Western Pacific and threats to restart nuclear tests, threatened to undermine the international arms control regime and even release the genie of a nuclear arms race. The Biden administration should cork that genie once more in the bottle and recommit the US to safeguarding the international nuclear disarmament regime.

The US and Russia together possess more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear arms, which the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated to be 13,400 at the start of 2020.

Although the extension of the treaty may ease tension between the two superpowers, it will in no way end the confrontation between them.

Nonetheless, treaties such as the INF Treaty and the New START treaty, play an important role in keeping the global arms race in check, and maintaining a strategic balance and stability. Hence, the extension of New START should serve as a new beginning for the two superpowers to shoulder their due international obligations in arms control.

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