SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The United States should resolve its differences with Russia through dialogue instead of threatening to withdraw from an important nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations, China’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.
The United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that Washington would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia within six months unless Russia returned to “full and verifiable compliance” with the treaty.
Washington claims Russia’s new Novator 9M729 cruise missile violates the agreement, which bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 km (310 to 3,420 miles).
“As an important bilateral treaty in arms control and disarmament, the Intermediate-Range Treaty has great significance in improving relations between major powers, strengthening international and regional peace, and maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its website.
“China is opposed to U.S. withdrawal action and urges the United States and Russia to handle their differences properly through constructive dialogue,” the statement said, warning that unilateral withdrawal could trigger “negative consequences”.
The agreement officially expires in early 2021 but can be extended by another five years if both Washington and Moscow agree. However, Russian officials have accused the United States of inventing a pretext to end the treaty, allowing them to develop new weapons.
China’s foreign ministry said it was not in favor of drawing up a multilateral arms control agreement to replace the Intermediate-Range Treaty, saying the issues were too complicated and that existing agreements should instead be maintained and implemented.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford)