US prepared to meet with Russia on nuclear arms control

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The United States is prepared to meet immediately with Russia to finalize a verifiable nuclear arms control agreement, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We appreciate the Russian Federation's willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control," the statement said.

"The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same," it added.

The U.S. statement came after an updated position from Moscow on the extension of the bilateral New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire on Feb. 5, 2021.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier in the day that Moscow is ready to freeze its existing number of nuclear warheads along with Washington to extend the New START by one year.

"This position of ours can be implemented strictly and exclusively on the understanding that the 'freezing' of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands from the United States," according to the Russian statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday proposed extending the New START without conditions for at least a year, but Washington rejected his offer immediately.

"President Putin's response today to extend New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter," U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said.

He reaffirmed the U.S. position of a one-year extension, during which both countries cap all nuclear warheads, referring to both strategic and tactical ones.

Washington and Moscow signed the New START in 2010. The treaty stipulates limits to the numbers of deployed nuclear warheads and strategic delivery systems by both, and is seen as the last remaining nuclear arms control pact in force between the two nuclear superpowers.

The agreement can be extended by a maximum of five years with the consent of the two countries. Without an extension, the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals would be unchecked for the first time since 1972.

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