Arms Control with China?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 12, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Arms Control with China?


Byline: Daniel Gallington, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Former Secretary of State James Baker has long believed we should talk directly to our enemies as well as our friends. Before that, President Richard Nixon thought it made sense to be talking directly to the Soviet Union about limiting the most dangerous kinds of weapons and this resulted in the laborious negotiation of intricate nuclear arms control agreements and their implementing protocols. Even President Reagan became something of an arms-control believer during his second term with the conclusion of the INF Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1987.

Proposed here is that arms control negotiations with China could now be a sound idea for us and we should be exploring the proposition as a part of a comprehensive new policy.

This would be a very controversial step, especially for critics of arms control: They maintain that arms control especially with the former Soviet Union was never a good idea for us, whether in concept, practice or otherwise.

The primary reason was that the Soviets always cheated in fact, they developed cheating scenarios as part of their arms control strategies and new weapons development. While we knew this, we seemed oblivious to it, and often agreed to goofy verification regimes rigged to facilitate wide-scale Soviet cheating.

In fact, when I "did" arms control in the 1980s, the more candid Soviet arms controllers told me they assumed we cheated as well: They refused to believe we wouldn't cheat on a matter so fundamentally important to our national security.

We didn't, of course, and Congress would never have funded such projects even if we had wanted to try them. But again, most Soviets thought our Congress did whatever the Pentagon wanted and that all our national security news reporting was under control of the government, as was theirs.

Cheating is the most serious problem with any kind of arms control, most recently demonstrated with the multilateral Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or "NPT." Rather than to limit the spread of nuclear weapons technology, this treaty has served primarily as diplomatic cover for clandestine nuclear weapons programs in several countries. North Korea and Iran are perhaps the best current examples.

We should, therefore, begin with the proposition that if we decided to negotiate arms control agreements with China we should assume the same degree and intensity of deception we got from the Soviets. China, like the Soviets, won't want us knowing much about their military capabilities especially their strengths or weaknesses.

But, does this mean that arms control with China is a fundamentally bad idea for us?

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