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U.S. Negotiator Stages Anti-China Stunt at Vienna Talks with Russia on Arms Control

June 23, 2020 (EIRNS)—U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met in Vienna yesterday for their first meeting on the future of U.S.-Russian arms control, around which Billingslea pulled a stunt regarding the absence of China. “China is a no-show,” Billingslea tweeted before the meeting. “Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear buildup, and so many other things.” The tweet included a photo of empty chairs with Chinese flags, which had been clearly staged for the purpose of the jab. It made a mockery of the idea of negotiations.

Fu Cong, the head of the arms control department at China’s Foreign Ministry responded to the incident, tweeting: “What an odd scene! Displaying Chinese National Flags on a negotiating table without China’s consent! Good luck on the extension of the New START! Wonder how LOW you can go?” China’s Permanent Mission in Vienna added: “U.S.’ performance art?”

“It is unserious, unprofessional and unappealing for the U.S. to try getting people’s eyes in this way,” replied Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, when asked about Billingslea’s stunt during today’s regular Foreign Ministry briefing. “We urge the U.S. to stop playing such dull tricks, earnestly respond to Russia’s call of extending the New START, and have serious, sincere talks on this. I think this also serves the common aspiration of the international community.”

“By the way, the ‘Chinese flags’ on the U.S. negotiating table have apparently erroneous patterns. We hope certain people in the U.S. can do their homework and improve their general knowledge to avoid becoming a laughingstock.”

The session reportedly lasted 10 hours with Billingslea tweeting afterwards “First round of Vienna talks very positive. Detailed discussions on full-range of nuclear topics. Technical working groups launched. Agreement in principle on second round.”

“Following the instruction of the presidents of the two countries, the delegations continued discussing the future of arms control, including extending the START Treaty and maintaining stability and predictability in the context of the termination of the INF Treaty, as well as a comprehensive dialogue on resolving international security problems,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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