Tue May 27, 3:57 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain Tuesday pledged to launch a new dialogue with China and Russia to reduce nuclear weapons and proliferation, and backed a US-India civil nuclear pact.
The Arizona senator also took a fresh swipe at potential Democratic general election foe Barack Obama, over his offer to talk to the leaders of US foes like Iran, Syria and Cuba.
McCain has previously taken a tough line on Russia, even calling for Moscow to be thrown out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations club, over an erosion of democracy.
But in a speech in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, he proposed new cuts to reduce nuclear stockpiles.
"The Cold War ended almost twenty years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals," McCain said.
"While we have serious differences, with the end of the Cold War, Russia and China are no longer mortal enemies," McCain said.
"As our two countries possess the overwhelming majority of the world's nuclear weapons, we have a special responsibility to reduce their number."
McCain said he believed Washington and Moscow could agree on binding verification measures for new arms reductions and he hoped to also find ways to reduce or eliminate deployments of tactical weapons in Europe.
The Arizona senator also said he would seriously consider Moscow's proposal to take the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty global.
Moving to China, McCain said it was time to start a dialogue on strategic and nuclear issues, citing "important shared interests" and the need to reach transparency on nuclear force doctrine.
He also backed the Bush administration's civil nuclear pact with India, which the US Senate and the Indian parliament has yet to sign off on, and pledged to talk to both India and Pakistan on nuclear security.
McCain meanwhile took a clear swipe at Obama, in the latest stage of a boiling foreign policy row over the Illinois senator's willingness to conduct direct talks with powers hostile to the United States.
"Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is to have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven't tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades," McCain said.