Chinese spokesperson says US should 'stop playing dumb' on nuclear arms agreement

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China has dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's calls for the United Nations Security Council to extend the Iranian arms embargo, citing concerns that the regime will become an arms dealer – with the suppliers being Russia and China.

Pompeo said in press conference this week that the U.S. has intelligence which suggests “that China will sell weapons systems to Iran” and that “Iranians believe that China will sell systems to Iran.”

The embargo, which prevents Iran from being able to purchase or sell arms, is a part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also referred to as the Iran nuclear deal.

The deal is set to expire on Oct. 18.

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“Pompeo's remarks are totally unreasonable and apparently an excuse to push the U.N. Security Council to extend arms embargo against Iran,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press conference Friday.

“Without violating international obligations including Security Council resolutions, China can carry out normal arms trade cooperation with any country and such cooperation is beyond reproach.”

President Trump pulled out of the arms agreement in 2018, calling the Obama-era deal “decaying and rotten.”

Intelligence officials and U.N member states warned that the move could destabilize the region’s security.

“The U.S. has no right to criticize China on this issue. It unsigned the Arms Trade Treaty last year while China recently just joined it,” Hua said Friday.

“The two countries' attitudes towards international rules stand in such sharp contrast that they are self-explanatory.”

Pompeo also warned the U.N. last month that should the embargo expire, Iran will be able to purchase “Russian-made fighter jets” which have the capability to strike “up to a 3,000-kilometer radius, putting cities like Riyadh, New Delhi, Rome, and Warsaw in Iranian crosshairs.”

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Pompeo suggested that China and Iran are already working to establish a relationship in arms sales.

“I think Europeans should stare at that and realize that the risk of this is real and that the work between Iran and the Chinese Communist Party may well commence rapidly and robustly on October 19th if we’re not successful at extending the U.N. arms embargo,” Pompeo said this week.

The Trump administration is also pushing to have a new nuclear arms deal with Russia that includes China – though a top Russia diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was not optimistic this agreement would be met.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which was signed in 2010 by former President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, was made in accordance with the original nuclear arms deal from 1987 and worked to further eliminate the creation and stockpiles of nuclear arms.

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President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of the 1987 nuclear arms treaty last year, leaving the START treaty as the only nuclear non-proliferation agreement between the two countries.

Should the treaty expire, it would be the first time the U.S. and Russia were not united in a nuclear arms agreement since the Cold War.

Lavrov said that Russia would be willing to extend the treaty which is set to expire in Feb. 2021 without contingencies, but the U.S. is demanding that China sign the new agreement as well.

China has repeatedly said they will not enter into an agreement that requires they reduce their nuclear arms.

“The U.S. has conducted more nuclear testing than others, over a thousand at home and abroad, causing unspeakable damage to other countries' ecological environment,” Hua said Friday. “By dragging China into this issue, it seeks to let itself off the hook and out of the straitjacket.”

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She added that China was one of the first signatories of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, an agreement that bans all testing of nuclear weapons, in 1996.

“We hope the U.S. will stop playing dumb,” Hua said from Friday’s press conference.

“With the largest nuclear arsenal, the US should respond to international concern, earnestly fulfill its special and primary responsibilities to nuclear disarmament, respond positively to Russia's call on extending the New START and further drastically reduce its nuclear arms stockpile.”

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