China cool to Biden administration attempt to negotiate nuclear deal

US officials fear China intends to expand its nuclear arsenal

China pushed back Friday on calls from the Biden administration to address growing concerns about Beijing's nuclear stockpile, calling Washington's worries "groundless" and a "vilification."

Following a five-year extension of the New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he wanted to expand nuclear nonproliferation talks to include China.

The treaty with Russia was jeopardized last year after the Trump administration initially said they would not renew the agreement if China did not also sign on.

China flatly refused to hold nuclear treaty talks with the Trump administration and appears to be continuing to object under the new administration, citing the vast number of nuclear warheads held by both the U.S. and Russia.

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"President Biden has made clear that the New START Treaty extension is only the beginning of our efforts to address 21st century security challenges," Blinken said earlier this week. "We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal."

According to data from the Arms Control Association, Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world with more than 6,300 warheads on hand. The U.S. comes in second with 5,800 warheads,

China ranks a distant third with 320 nuclear warheads, a fact that Beijing frequently refers to in its refusals to enter nonproliferation talks.

"There is an order-of-magnitude difference between the amount of China's nuclear weaponry and that of the United States and Russia," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters Friday. "We firmly reject the groundless allegation and vilification from the U.S. side."

Despite China’s relatively low arsenal count, U.S. security officials remain worried about that country's interest in doubling its count of nuclear warheads within a decade.

STRATCOM Commander Adm. Charles Richard warned Thursday that China and Russia have "begun to aggressively challenge international norms" in "ways not seen since the height of the Cold War." 

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"We must pay attention to PRC’s [China's] actions more than its stated policies," he said, noting that Beijing's insistence on bolstering its nuclear stockpile suggests their current "No First Use" policy could change.

Blinken met with officials from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom Friday to discuss a range of issues including "COVID, Iran, Burma, Russia, China, climate change, and other pressing issues," the State Department confirmed to Fox News.

"They affirmed the centrality of the Transatlantic relationship in dealing with security, climate, economic, health, and other challenges the world faces," the department added.

The Biden administration has committed itself to reentering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran after Trump pulled out in 2018 – opting to implement severe sanctions despite warnings from allied nations.

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Iran has since ceased its compliance with the agreement and has bolstered its nuclear program in retaliation for the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani by U.S. airstrikes in January 2020 followed by the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November.

Iran and the U.S. have found themselves at an impasse, as Iran has said it will reenter nuclear talks with the U.S. only if the Biden administration lifts Trump-era sanctions. But Biden has called on Iran to first halt its new nuclear activity before that happens.