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Russia, China slam US 'stoking tensions' with missile test

August 20, 2019

Russia and China have sharply criticized the US for ramping up military tensions by testing a ground-launched, medium-range cruise missile weeks after withdrawing from the INF pact with Moscow.

The US tests a medium-range cruise missile
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Howe

Moscow and Beijing on Tuesday said the US was stoking military tensions by testing a ground-launched, medium-range cruise missile after Washington tore up a Cold War-era pact banning this type of potentially nuclear-capable weapon.   

The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) of flight.

Read more: Russia and the US nuke 32-year-old INF treaty

"All this elicits regret. The United States has obviously taken a course toward escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency TASS.

Despite the test, Ryabkov said, "We won't allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race." The minister stressed that Moscow would stick to a unilateral moratorium on such missile systems and did not plan to deploy them "as long as the US does not deploy them anywhere in the world."

A Tomahawk cruise missile in flight
The US missile tested on Sunday was a version of the nuclear-capable Tomahawk cruise missileImage: Getty Images/M.Wilson

Fears of a new arms race

The US missile tested on Sunday was a version of the nuclear-capable Tomahawk cruise missile. The ground-launched version of the Tomahawk was removed from service after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was ratified in the late 1980s. The test came weeks after Washington formally withdrew from the pact on August 2.

Read more: Landmark INF nuclear arms treaty is history: What now?

The INF treaty banned both countries from possessing, producing or conducting test flights of ground-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,420 miles).

Many fear the end of the INF treaty, which Washington accused Moscow of having violated in recent years, will lead to a new and dangerous nuclear arms race.

The treaty's collapse has, among other things, undermined confidence in any arms control and nonproliferation pacts.

Read more: China warns US against Asia missile deployment 

China responds

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday that US missile tests could unleash a new arms race, which could have serious consequences for regional and global security.

"We advise the US side to abandon outdated notions of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games, and exercise restraint in developing arms," Geng told a press briefing in Beijing.

The INF agreement was signed by former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The deal, which served to boost global security at the end of the Cold War, remained in force after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However, experts have said that the rise of China as a military power has made the Cold War-era treaty obsolete. 

Read more: US to deploy new missiles in Asia 'sooner rather than later'

"The INF Treaty was relevant to the context back in the 1980s, which was characterized by the US-Soviet arms race," said Collin Koh, a defense analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. 

"But fast forward to today's context, while Russia continues to possess a sizeable strategic missile arsenal, China has arisen as a new player. More importantly, China has been increasingly regarded as gaining increased capabilities to directly threaten US interests," Koh told DW. 

Chinese defense officials have said that they would not join a reworked INF treaty, as Beijing contends that its missile capability is still less than that of the US and Russia. 

"China continues with the argument that its arsenal and development are 'modest' and 'defensive,' and therefore there is no reason or incentive for it to join an expanded INF Treaty," said Koh. 

NATO Secretary General: Russian missiles violated INF treaty

wmr,sri/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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