China slams U.S. as it joins global arms trade treaty at U.N.

FILE PHOTO: Zhang Jun, China's Ambassador to the United Nations speaks at a Security Council meeting about Afghanistan at United Nations Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

(This July 6 story corrects in the 3rd paragraph that Obama’s administration, not Obama himself, signed the treaty)

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - China on Monday joined a global arms trade treaty spurned by the United States, taking a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration by accusing it of bullying, unilateralism and undermining efforts to combat global challenges.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he had deposited China’s instrument of accession to the treaty, which regulates a $70 billion global cross-border trade in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.

China, which announced its plans in September, becomes the 107th party to the pact, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration signed it, but it was opposed by the National Rifle Association and never ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Trump said in April last year that he intended to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory. In July 2019, the United States told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Washington did not intend to become a party to the treaty and that it had no legal obligations from its 2013 signature.

Without naming the United States, but amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington, Zhang said in a statement that a “certain country ... walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.”

“This has brought huge uncertainties to the global strategic balance and stability, and seriously undermined the joint efforts of all countries to tackle global challenges,” he said, adding that “major powers need to ... set an example by contributing to safeguarding the international order, the rule of law, the role of the U.N. and multilateralism.”

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zhang’s remarks.

China was the fifth-largest global arms exporter between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, although China itself does not publish figures for how many arms it exports.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney