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AFP
August 21, 2019

US missile test will trigger a new ‘arms race’: Beijing

World

AFP
August 21, 2019

BEIJING: China warned on Tuesday that the testing of a medium-range cruise missile by the US would start a new "arms race", after a launch off the coast of California.

"This measure from the US will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. Geng said that the US should "let go of its Cold War mentality" and "do more things that are conducive to... international and regional peace and tranquillity."

The missile was launched from the US Navy-controlled San Nicolas Island off the coast of California. The launch came just weeks after Washington and Moscow ditched the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty this month, after accusing each other of violating the deal.

The US Department of Defence announced Monday it had tested a type of ground-launched missile that was banned under the 1987 INF agreement, which limited the use of nuclear and conventional medium-range weapons.

The US launch also came weeks after a deadly explosion at a testing site in the far north of Russia, which Western experts linked to Moscow’s attempts to develop a nuclear-powered missile.

Moscow on Tuesday also accused the United States of ramping up military tensions with the new missile test. "The US has obviously taken a course towards escalation of military tensions. We won’t react to provocations," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency Tass.Beijing also attacked the US for provocative behaviour, warning that the missile test could lead to “another round of the arms race”, and have a “serious negative impact” on international and regional security.

“We counsel the US side to abandon their outdated concepts of a cold war mentality and zero sum games, and exercise restraint in developing weapons,” Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing.

US President Donald Trump made the decision to leave the INF treaty in February, giving six months notice, and blaming Russia for developing a suspect weapon that it said violated the treaty’s terms. Russia initially denied the missile existed, but more recently said its range did not violate those limits.

Globally, the end of the INF leaves just one major treaty providing formal restraint on the world’s major arsenals – the New START treaty – and it too is in jeopardy. It limits strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the US and Russia to 1,550 each, and allows important verification and data exchanges, but is currently due to expire in February 2021.

Although it could be extended, US national security advisor John Bolton has said that is “unlikely”. Trump has expressed interest in pursuing a new arms control agreement but one that includes Beijing. Concerns about China’s growing missile arsenal, which is not subject to any international arms control treaties, may have contributed to hawks in the US administration pushing to exit the INF treaty.

“I think we are going to end up making a deal with Russia where we have some kind of arms control because all we are doing is adding on to what we don’t need and they are too. And China is trying to catch us both,” Trump told C-Span.

As the Chinese arsenal is believed to be a twentieth of the size of Russia or the US, and is not operationally deployed (warheads are stored separately from missiles), administration critics believe the inclusion of China, is a “poison pill”, included with the intention of preventing substantive negotiation before New Start expires. Beijing has said it has no interest in such a deal.

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