China cautiously backs Bush offer

September 30, 1991|By New York Times News Service

BEIJING -- China announced yesterday that it welcomed President Bush's initiative on reduction of nuclear arms but gave no indication that it was prepared to cut its own nuclear arsenal.

The New China News Agency said in a brief dispatch that China has always supported a "complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons" and that it hopes Mr. Bush's proposal may help realize those objectives.

"We maintain that the United States and the Soviet Union, which possess the largest nuclear arsenals, have a special responsibility for nuclear disarmament and thus have the obligation to take the lead in halting the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and substantially cutting the nuclear weapons of all types in their possession," the report said.

China is secretive about its own nuclear weapons, which were primarily developed to counter what were perceived as threats from the Soviet Union and the United States. It is believed to have a broad range of nuclear weapons, strategic and tactical, ranging from bombs to warheads for land-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles.

While China has been historically contemptuous of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, deriding it as an instrument of superpower hegemony, it announced last month that it has agreed in principle to sign the treaty. The concession was seen as a way to improve its relations with Western governments, but it is still not clear just when the signing will take place.

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