U.S., Russian Federation appear on track to extend nuclear arms pact

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday put forward an offer to extend the treaty, commonly known as New START. which limits each country to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and includes site inspections to verify compliance. The politically binding deal now under negotiation between USA and Russian officials, however, wouldn't specifically mention China, officials on both sides have said. But Robert O'Brien, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security advisor, quickly rejected the proposal, calling it insufficient.

Previous year the United States pulled out of a Cold War-era arms control pact banning ground-launched nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500-5,500 km, citing Russian violations denied by Moscow.

"Were this approach to be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability".

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Russia was ready to freeze nuclear warheads alongside the United States to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) by one year.

"The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement".

With both Moscow and Washington leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) previous year, the New START is the only major accord on nuclear weapons still in place between the rival powers. "We expect Russian Federation to empower its diplomats to do the same".

Agreement on warheads brings U.S., Russia closer to extending nuclear treaty

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had only seen "comments made by U.S. officials on social media platforms" about the treaty, but is yet to receive any official response from the U.S. government to their October 16 note proposing the New START extension.

Marshall Billingslea, the chief USA negotiator, briefed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation diplomats in a video conference on Tuesday on prospects for an agreement.

"And I will take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons", he wrote.

The Russian Foreign Ministry made no mention of verification in its Tuesday statement and said that a warhead freeze would "be implemented on the understanding that the United States will not advance any additional conditions with regard to freezing the arsenals".

Over the course of months of talks, Washington had demanded that tactical nuclear weapons be covered by the treaty and insisted China must be included - even though Beijing had shown no interest. Within weeks, the USA was testing missile systems that had been banned under the treaty.

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