European Union fears spread of nuclear arms as USA readies to quit pact


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday announced the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, in what was a long-expected decision by President Donald Trump's administration.

Ahead of a deadline set by Washington, the United States said that Russian Federation had not addressed concerns over a new medium-range missile system that Western states believe goes against the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

"Russian Federation has refused to take any steps to get into verifiable compliance", Pompeo said.

United States officials and lawmakers have expressed concern that the treaty is allowing China to gain a military advantage, as Beijing is not bound by the INF treaty's limits on intermediate range missiles that now constrain the US.

Pompeo said the USA can "no longer" be restricted by the treaty when it isn't kept. It will fully withdraw from the landmark 1987 arms control accord in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact.

At the same time, the officials acknowledged a USA assessment that China has roughly 1,000 missiles that would be considered INF non-compliant. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference in Beijing consists of five permanent members (P5) China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. "And it's unfair for the U.S. to voluntarily restrict itself in a bilateral treaty when one side of that partnership (Russia) is failing to live by its obligations". The dispute over INF has contributed to U.S. -Russia frictions, now at their worst since the Cold War ended in 1991 despite Trump's stated desire for better ties.

There has been no formal indication from the State Department that the topic of the briefing will be the treaty, but State Department officials indicated in comments Thursday that the United States is prepared to stop abiding by the bilateral midrange nuclear arms treaty.

Trump noted that the United States stands ready to engage with Russian Federation on arms control negotiations.

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"So we must prepare for a world without the Treaty", she wrote. In December, Pompeo gave Russian Federation 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty. Both Russia and USA -led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have shored up their mutual borders, conducting drills of historic magnitude in recent years.

In remarks to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, Stoltenberg added that intelligence collected from many countries over many years showed Russian Federation was breaking the INF treaty.

"Russia faces a choice: It can either keep its noncompliant missile system or it can have the INF treaty, but it cannot have both", she said.

The Kremlin denies violating the treaty.

A senior Trump administration official told reporters on February 1 that the exit from the treaty has nothing to do with China, which has deployed more than 1,000 missiles neither Washington nor Moscow could deploy under the INF.

The move follows broken negotiations between the United States and Russian Federation this week.

In an interview, Thompson said that suspension of United States obligations would allow the USA military to immediately begin developing its own longer-range missiles if it chose to do so, raising the prospect they could be deployed in Europe.