The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released earlier this year, emphasized the growing threat of nuclear competition in the Asia-Pacific, specifically with reference to Russia, North Korea, and China. In this podcast, Tong Zhao sat down with David Santoro, director and senior fellow of nuclear policy programs at the Pacific Forum CSIS, to explore pressing nuclear issues in the region and their implications for the U.S.-China relationship.
Santoro pointed to the release of the U.S. National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, all three of which emphasize the theme of major power competition between the U.S. and China, as symbolizing the shift in U.S. security policy in the Asia-Pacific. He argued, however, that U.S. policymakers do not view China as an adversary but that the U.S. sees Russia and North Korea as its top nuclear threats. To prevent nuclear security differences from damaging the bilateral relationship, Santoro advocated for U.S. and Chinese officials to engage in senior level dialogues that build understanding and trust. Rapid innovations in nuclear and military technologies will further complicate security relations, and there is an urgent need for the U.S. and China to begin official discussions on norms and rules that account for these disruptions, Santoro said. Despite recent diplomatic progress with North Korea, the military threat from Pyongyang is likely to persist. Military confidence-building measures between the U.S. and China—including heeding lessons from other countries on conventional arms control—could be useful in the long term.
Tong Zhao is a fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
David Santoro is director and senior fellow of nuclear policy programs at Pacific Forum CSIS.