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U.S.-China Nuclear Talks: Reassurances and Strategic Posturing

The recent Track Two nuclear arms talks between the United States and China, held in March after a five-year hiatus, underscored pivotal reassurances and strategic posturing amid escalating geopolitical tensions. Beijing’s firm declaration that it would refrain from resorting to nuclear threats over Taiwan reassured American counterparts, emphasizing China’s confidence in prevailing through conventional means in any conflict scenario involving Taiwan. Discussions, facilitated by scholars and former military officials, delved into China’s nuclear policies, including its no-first-use and minimal deterrence doctrines, dating back to the Cold War era.

Despite U.S. concerns over Beijing’s nuclear arsenal expansion and modernization efforts, which include hypersonic weapons and ballistic missile submarines, the talks revealed China’s stance on maintaining strategic parity rather than seeking nuclear superiority. However, lingering uncertainties persist over China’s nuclear posture, especially concerning its conditional interpretations of no-first-use and the efficacy of its deterrence capabilities against evolving U.S. missile defenses and strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific region.