Russia, U.S. trade barbs over INF collapse, China says no interest in trilateral treaty
Russia and the United States on Thursday blamed each other for the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, while China said it has no interest in trilateral arms control talks that Washington wants.
A handout photo made available by the US Department of Defense shows a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California, USA, at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on 18 August 2019. [File photo: US Department of Defense Handout/EPA via IC/Scott Howe]
At a United Nations Security Council meeting, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's acting permanent representative to the UN, said the United States "consistently and deliberately violated" the Treaty for some time.
He recalled the U.S. deployment of missile launchers in eastern Europe, the first one in Romania, which he said could be easily re-equipped to launch missiles banned by the treaty.
The U.S. missile test, conducted soon after its formal departure from the treaty on Aug. 2, proved its intended breach.
Jonathan Cohen, U.S. acting permanent representative to the UN, accused Russia of violating the 1987 arms control deal, saying the United States will not remain a party to an agreement not complied with by the other signatory.
He noted that the United States has the full support of its NATO allies in its exit, accusing Russia had "materially breached" the treaty.
Meanwhile, Cohen claimed that China "threatens to target U.S. allies that host any U.S. missiles," and reiterated the U.S. interest in arms control that includes both Russia and China, signaling proposal of trilateral talks to that end.
In response, Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun said "China has repeatedly stated its position on the so-called arms control negotiation with the United States and Russia. China has no interest and will not be part of it."
Zhang stressed that, for any arms control negotiation, it is imperative to fully consider the overall military capabilities of countries and follow the principle of "undiminished security for all", a basic principle of international arms control.
In addition, he said it is unacceptable to use China as an excuse for the United States to leave the INF Treaty.
"China unswervingly pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature," he said. "China's nuclear strategy for self-defense is completely transparent and its nuclear policy is highly responsible."
"China's nuclear arsenal is extremely limited in scale, and poses no threat to international peace and security," he noted.
In response to the U.S. criticism of China's development of intermediate-range missiles, Zhang stressed that the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty is yet "another act of unilateralism and escape from international obligations by the United States."
"It is aimed at relieving restrictions and seeking absolute military advantage," the envoy noted.
"China firmly opposes U.S. deployment of intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific and looks to the United States to be cool-headed and exercise restraint," said Zhang.
At the meeting, Russia's Polyanskiy also appealed to his "European colleagues" to heed the U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty, and warned of a possible new arms race as a result.
He called on the Europeans to act to prevent the deployment of U.S. intermediate-range missiles on their continent.
Recalling a failed push by Russia at the UN to support the INF Treaty last year, Polyanskiy warned that the demise of the INF Treaty would not only undermine parts of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but also would lead to a new arms race.
He told his European peers that, because of the U.S. geopolitical ambitions, "we are all one step from an arms race that could not be controlled or regulated in any way."
Nonetheless, the Russian ambassador voiced hope that "common sense and an instinct of self-defense" can "win out among our Western partners."
"what's at stake here is the very existence of humanity," he said.
Thursday's meeting focused on the intermediate-range cruise missile test conducted by the United States. The meeting was requested by China and Russia, citing the destabilizing effects of the test.
The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed on Monday that it had conducted a flight test of a ground-launched cruise missile, which hit its intended target after traveling more than 500 km.
It was the first time the United States had conducted an intermediate-range cruise missile test since formally withdrawing from the INF Treaty.
The United States and former Soviet Union signed the INF Treaty in 1987 and ratified it the following year. The treaty prohibited possessing, development and testing of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.
Moscow and Washington had accused each other of violating the agreement in recent years amid increasing tensions.
In early February, the United States announced that it would suspend its treaty obligations and withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months if Russia failed to adhere to treaty provisions.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to suspend Moscow's participation in the INF Treaty in February.
At the beginning of the meeting, UN Under-secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said: "The recent collapse of the INF Treaty removed one of the few constraints on the development and deployment of a destabilizing and dangerous classes of missiles."
Nakamitsu echoed United Nations Security-General Antonio Guterres' call for all states to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.