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China to join US-spurned arms treaty ‘as soon as possible’

This AFP photo taken on July 29, 2019, shows Chinese paramilitary police officers taking part in a skill competition in Xiangxi in China.

China has expressed willingness for an immediate accession to a treaty that sets global standards for regulating transfers of conventional arms as the US intends to withdraw from the pact.

The agreement, known as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), was signed by former US President Barack Obama in 2013, but has been opposed by the American National Rifle Association (NRA) and other conservative pro-gun groups.

US President Donald Trump announced in April that he would be pulling his country out of the treaty, which regulates the $70 billion business in conventional arms and aims to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.

Around 100 countries have officially signed the treaty so far, and another 29, including the US, have signed it but not yet formally joined.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Beijing intended to join the treaty "as soon as possible” since it was China's responsibility to do so as a member of the international community.

This is an important action for China to actively participate in the governance of the global arms trade and reflects China’s determination to support multilateralism, according to the statement.

“China has always attached great importance to the issue of illegal arms sales and their misuse, and supports the purposes and objectives of the treaty,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

“As a responsible member of the international family, China is willing to continue to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with all parties and work together to build a standardized and reasonable arms trade order and make positive contributions to maintaining international and regional peace and stability,” it added.

A day earlier, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced in his speech at the United Nations that Beijing had initiated domestic legal procedures to join the Arms Trade Treaty.

China was the fifth-largest global arms exporter between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Since the US and China embarked on a trade war, Beijing has frequently rebuked Washington for its withdrawal from international treaties and not playing by the rules.

Last month, Trump announced Washington's withdrawal from a Cold War-era arms treaty with Russia, namely the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which banned land-based missiles with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

China has also warned the US against deploying new missile systems to various Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea.

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