Trump Cites China Nuclear Buildup In Vowing To Abandon Treaty With Russia

U.S. President Donald Trump says that his decision to withdraw from a
decades-old nuclear treaty with Russia was driven not just by Moscow's
alleged violations but by a need to respond to China's nuclear buildup.

"Russia has not adhered to the agreement," Trump told reporters at the
White House late on October 22. "We have more money than anybody else by
far. We'll build it up until they come to their senses," he said.

"I'm terminating the agreement because they violated the agreement,"
Trump said, but he added that his action was "a threat to whoever you
want, and it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes
anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t
play that game on me."

While China was never a party to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear
Forces (INF), which was negotiated in the waning days of the Cold War by
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Trump
has insisted that China should be included in the accord.

Trump's remarks came after his National Security Adviser John Bolton met
in Moscow with top Russian officials, who warned that any move by
Washington to abandon the treaty would be "dangerous" and would force
Moscow to take steps to restore the balance of power.

"Any action in this area will be met with a counteraction, because the
strategic stability can only be ensured on the basis of parity," Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 22 before his talks with Bolton.
"Such parity will be secured under all circumstances. We bear a
responsibility for global stability and we expect the United States not
to shed its share of responsibility either."

Bolton is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic on October 23.

Bolton repeated Trump's argument about China in an interview with the
Russian business daily Kommersant published on October 22. He said the
White House is concerned both with Russia's alleged violation of the
pact and China's growing intermediate-range missile capabilities, which
he called a "very real threat."

While Bolton acknowledged it might be unrealistic to expect China to
comply with a treaty it never signed, he argued that China's and North
Korea's development of intermediate-range missiles means that the
bilateral treaty with Russia is now outmoded and no longer meets today's

China on October 22 decried the apparent U.S. attempt to draw Beijing into a first-ever arms negotiation.

"It needs to be emphasized that it is completely wrong to bring up China
when talking about withdrawal from the treaty," said Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who warned Washington to "think
twice" about its decision.

'Extremely Dangerous'

Defense analysts say that while Russia and the United States eliminated
nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles under the treaty, China
all the while was building up its capabilities to field the same kinds
of weapons.

For the United States, "the situation vis-a-vis China, uninhibited by
any agreement, is very different and far more pressing" than that of
Russia, said John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think
tank in Washington, in a column on CNN's website on October 22.

Lee estimated that about 95 percent of the missiles in China's arsenal would violate the INF Treaty if Beijing were a signatory.

Writing in The American Interest, Stephen Sestanovich, a former U.S.
National Security Council senior director for policy development under
President Reagan, said that "military competition between China and the
United States will obviously be the Pentagon's top priority in coming

"But the idea that this need decisively devalues the INF Treaty seems -- at the very least -- premature," Sestanovich added.

The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing,
producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of
between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

U.S. officials say Russia has been developing a nuclear-capable missile
system known as 9M729 for years in violation of the treaty.

Russia denies the U.S. accusations and claims that some elements of the
U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe violate the treaty -- a charge
that Washington denies.

Russia raised its concerns about possible U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty at the United Nations late on October 22.

Andrei Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's
Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, told a UN disarmament
committee that a U.S. withdrawal would be "extremely dangerous" and
"would prove again that the U.S. political and military authorities
[are] obsessively striving to ensure U.S. military superiority over the
rest of the world" rather than seeking "peace and stability."

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