U.S. says it is not engaged in formal arms control talks with China

·1-min read
Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and China will aim to have "conversations" on arms control, "not formal talks", the White House National Security Council said on Wednesday, downplaying contact on the issue following a meeting between the two countries' leaders.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed this week to "look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability," national security advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday, in a reference to U.S. concerns about China's nuclear and missile buildup.

Following Sullivan's remarks, the NSC cautioned in a statement against "overstating" the status of those conversations, emphasizing that they were not at the same level on which the United States and Russia have engaged for decades.

"It should be clear, as National Security Advisor Sullivan said, this is not the same as the talks we have with Russia, which are mature and have history," an NSC spokesman said.

"These are not arms control talks, but rather conversations with empowered interlocuters," he said without giving details on the format for future contact on the matter.

Washington has repeatedly urged China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.

Beijing says the arsenals of the other two countries dwarf its own. It says it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogue on strategic security "on the basis of equality and mutual respect".

Although Biden and Xi spoke for about 3-1/2 hours, the two leaders appeared to do little to narrow differences that have raised fears of an eventual conflict between the two superpowers.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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