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Japan seeks multilateralization of INF treaty, Kono says, after U.S. decides to withdraw from pact

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday a multilateral arms control treaty will be needed after the United States’ decision to withdraw from a Cold War-era pact with Russia.

Kono acknowledged, however, that the outlook for such an accord is “extremely uncertain” as China, which already has a large stockpile of ballistic and cruise missiles, is opposed to the idea of joining a framework to limit medium-range missiles.

“Japan will actively call on countries that possess or are developing such missiles to support the multilateralization (of the treaty),” Kono told reporters, referring to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The United States said Saturday it had notified Russia of its intention to pull out of the INF treaty, accusing Moscow of violating the ban on the possession and development of land-based missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had suspended its treaty obligations and would start developing a new hypersonic intermediate-range missile.

Russia denies violation of the INF and accuses the U.S. of breaching the accord through its installation of Aegis defense systems in Eastern Europe.

“China already possesses missiles (of the range covered in the pact) and we believe the multilateralization of the treaty is necessary for disarmament not only in Asia but also in the world,” Kono said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed hope that the United States can negotiate a broader accord that would involve other nuclear powers such as China.

The INF treaty was symbolic of the Cold War era, when Europe was under threat from the former Soviet Union’s ground-launched missiles.

The United States said it will withdraw from the pact in six months unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.