President Donald Trump’s proposal to pull out of a major U.S. arms control agreement with Russia is not just about Moscow, or nuclear weapons. The move also clears a path to boost America’s conventional forces in China’s backyard, according to arms control experts as well as current and former administration officials.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibits the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles). But since China has never been a signatory, it has been able to build up a vast arsenal of conventional weapons that now threaten freedom of navigation in the region, such as the DF-21 “carrier killer,” experts say.
Beijing already has conventional ballistic and cruise missiles that can strike major U.S. facilities in the region, such as Kadena Air Base in Japan. It is also developing stealth combat aircraft. As a result, U.S. and allied assets in the Pacific are being pushed further and further offshore, and Beijing is able to continue its buildup in the South China Sea unabated.
The proposal to pull out of the INF Treaty, which is still not a certainty, would allow the United States to compete with China in building conventional weapons currently banned under the agreement, the officials and experts said. These weapons—likely mobile, ground-launched, medium-range ballistic missiles operated by the Army—could be stationed on islands in the Pacific Ocean to help counter Chinese aggression, according to one current administration official.
Read the full article and more in Foreign Policy.