U.S. to Share Missile Secrets With China Under New Proposal

The U.S. is considering a deal with China that will see the two countries warn each other before they launch any missiles, according to the Japanese press.

Details of the proposals were reported by Nikkei Asia, which quoted an unnamed senior U.S. State Department official in an article published on Monday. That source claimed it was hoped that the two nations “would have a reciprocal obligation to clarify what we’re doing,” and added that the pact would be similar to an existing arrangement between the U.S. and Russia.

Reports that the deal is being considered come as the U.S. and China navigate a fraught relationship amid mutual suspicion between the two countries. A diplomatic furor erupted in February when the U.S. accused China of flying a spy balloon over American airspace.

China’s designs on Taiwan and accusations of human rights abuses are also responsible for much of the frostiness in the relationship, while American fears that China may challenge its technological or trade interests have also played a role. And this summer it emerged that China was refusing to resume communication between its armed forces and the American military.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping meet at the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 14, 2022. The U.S. is reportedly considering a missile notification pact with China.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

But last month, Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met in California to strike a series of landmark deals, including the resumption of military-to-military dialogue.

And, if Monday’s report by Nikkei Asia is correct, it means that the two countries are serious about their commitment.

The publication reported the U.S. official as saying Washington hopes to hold talks on arms control with China early next year, adding that a missile launch notification plan is currently being mulled over by the government.

The U.S. and China have similar agreements in place with Russia. “The reason launch notification is so important is because we would have a reciprocal obligation to clarify what we’re doing [with China],” the official said. “The fact that China has it with Russia demonstrates they appreciated the significance of the stabilizing nature. That’s what we are trying to build on.”

The deal would help establish trust on both sides, the official added.

Newsweek has emailed the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House seeking further information and comment. Newsweek has also emailed China’s State Council Information Office, which acts as the press office for the Chinese government.

Washington’s deal with Russia is known as the “Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement,” which was signed in Moscow in 1988 when the country was still part of the U.S.S.R. The Cold War-era agreement was designed to avert panic with each country demonstrating that its upcoming missile launch wasn’t part of a nuclear attack.

Despite the dismal state of the relationship between the two countries today, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in March that Moscow would continue to notify the U.S. of any intercontinental or submarine ballistic missile launches.