China set to join Arms Trade Treaty that Donald Trump threatened to abandon

China, the world’s fifth-largest weapons supplier, has signed up to a global arms control treaty. Photo: Simon Song. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.


NEW YORK, Sep 28, 2019, SCMP. Legal process under way, Beijing says after Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells United Nations China is committed to defending multilateralism. Any unilateral move to leave weapons control pact will have a ‘negative impact in various areas’, minister says in thinly veiled swipe at United States, reported the South China Morning Post.

China said it has begun preparations to join an international arms control treaty that the United States has threatened to abandon, while also warning Washington against deploying missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that signing up to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was further evidence of Beijing’s commitment to defending multilateralism.

US President Donald Trump said in April that he intended to withdraw from the pact, which regulates the US$70 billion global trade in conventional arms.

The White House said at the time that the ATT “will only constrain responsible countries while allowing the irresponsible arms trade to continue”, as major arms exporters like Russia and China were not part of it.

Wang said on Friday that any unilateral move to leave the treaty would have a “negative impact in various areas”. He stopped short of naming the United States or its president.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement released on Saturday that it had begun the legal process of joining the treaty, adding that it attached great importance to the issues caused by the illegal sale and misuse of arms, and supported the aims of the ATT in seeking to regulate the international weapons trade.

Wang also spoke out against the possible deployment of ground-launched missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

After withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August, the US said it was planning to deploy such weapons in Asia to counter any possible threat from China or Russia.

“[We] urge the country with the largest nuclear weapons to fulfil its special and prior responsibilities on nuclear disarmament,” Wang said, adding that “China will continue to participate the international arms control process”.

According to figures released in May by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States is the world’s largest arms exporter, supplying weapons worth 58 per cent more than those of its nearest competitor, Russia.

Together with France, Germany and China, the five nations accounted for 75 per cent of all weapons sold around the world between 2014 and last year, the institute said.

Although China is among the world’s big five arms suppliers, its sales – most of which go to Asia and Oceania – are dwarfed by those of the US, accounting for just 5.2 per cent of the 2014-18 total, compared to America’s 36 per cent.

Several major arms importers, including India, Australia, South Korea and Vietnam, refuse to buy arms from China for political reasons.

Beijing’s decision to join the ATT is in keeping with the image it has sought to present of China as a defender of multilateralism. The stance is also in sharp contrast to the United States’s position under Trump, who has repeatedly trashed multilateral trade agreements in favour of bilateral deals.

Since taking office in 2016, he has withdrawn the US from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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