Esper: US to soon put intermediate range missile in Asia

Russia's development of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile the 9M729 has caused the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty between Russia and the US

Esper: US to soon put intermediate range missile in Asia

The United States will withdraw from a landmark Cold War arms-control pact on Friday, six months after the Trump administration declared Russian Federation in material breach of the treaty and said Moscow hadn't made an effort to return to compliance.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formal US withdrawal on Friday, saying that "the United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russian Federation".

In February, Washington announced that in six months it would suspend its participation in the pact unless Moscow destroyed missiles which the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies alleged that they violate the agreement.

Washington withdrew from the INF treaty on Friday after accusing Russian Federation of violating it for years. Washington signaled it would pull out of the arms control treaty six months ago unless Moscow stuck to the accord.

Short and medium-range surface-to-surface missiles, including the Pershing II and the MGM Lance were deployed by the United States in Western Europe in the early 1980s, while the Soviet Union had deployed SS-20 mobile missile launchers in the western USSR. American plans to resume development and deployment of mid-range missiles "will severely undermine global strategic balance and stability ... and threaten peace and security" in Asia-Pacific, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

"It's fair to say, though, that we would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later", Esper told reporters traveling with him to Australia on Friday.

'Russia bears sole responsibility for the demise of the Treaty.

"With the end of the INF treaty, a bit of security in Europe is being lost", German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said this week. Now we are out of the INF treaty.

A ballistic missile with a range of roughly 3,000-4,000km could take five years or more to deploy.

The United States has so far relied on other capabilities as a counterbalance to China, like missiles fired from USA ships or aircraft. The pact caps the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads by both Russian Federation and the United States to 1,550 and places similar limits on the two countries' number of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Russia's noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes USA supreme interests as Russia's development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he is hopeful a new agreement can be negotiated to replace the 1987 treaty.

"By the way, I will say, Russian Federation would like to do something on a nuclear treaty". The announcement of the treaty's impending dissolution in February triggered some fears of an arms race that were re-upped on Friday.

Nonetheless, arms control advocates still worry that the USA exit from the INF treaty will lead the two nations to also scrap the larger New START treaty, which expires in 2021. "In terms of nuclear [weapons], China is much lower, but we would certainly want to include China at some point".

If the broader New Start treaty is not extended or replaced when it expires in early 2021, there will be no legally binding limits on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in almost 50 years.

According to Slutsky, "the termination of the INF Treaty won't radically weaken Russia's security" because the country "has ensured credible nuclear deterrence for years to come".

In his statement, however, Pompeo said Trump was "seeking a new era of arms control".

Moscow denies that, and says Washington made a "serious mistake" pulling out of the deal. "Going forward, the United States calls upon Russian Federation and China to join us in this opportunity to deliver real security results to our nations and the entire world".

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