China has opposed a US decision to suspend a landmark Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, a move which prompted Moscow to give a tit-for-tat response.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement on Saturday urged Washington and Russia to hold “constructive” discussions about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
“China is opposed to the US withdrawal and urges the US and Russia to properly resolve differences through constructive dialogue,” the statement read.
Elsewhere in the statement, Geng warned that the US decision could trigger “a series of negative consequences.” He also echoed warnings by both Russia and Europe that a pullout might lead to a new arms race.
This comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that Washington would suspend the INF for 180 days and would fully withdraw from it later if Moscow did not stop what he called “violations” of the treaty.
Reacting to the US announcement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow was still ready to maintain dialogue on the INF but reserved the right to respond to a possible US withdrawal from the pact.
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country was suspending participation in the treaty following a similar decision by the US.
“We will proceed as follows. We will have a tit-for-tat response. American partners have announced that they are suspending their participation in the treaty, so we are suspending ours as well,” Putin said, adding, “They announced that they are engaged in research & technological development work, and we will do the same.”
The Russian leader, however, said “we will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic.”
Shortly after Pompeo’s announcement, US President Donald Trump said in a statement that he would work with NATO and draw up Washington’s own set of plans, including military ones, to counter Russia’s gains from its “unlawful conduct.”
Trump announced last year that Washington would withdraw from the INF, which was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by the then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The INF bans all land-based missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or 310 to 3,420 miles and included missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. It does not cover air-launched or sea-launched weapons.
Tensions have boiled over the fate of the INF.
Washington insists that Russia’s new 9M729 missile is in violation of the treaty and should be dismantled immediately.
But Moscow insists the disputed 9M729 missile is allowed under the treaty.