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Putin warns new arms race threatens Asia after US pullout from INF

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, takes part in the ASEAN-East Asia Summit on the sidelines of the 2021 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit on October 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has renewed warnings about the possibility of an arms race between world powers.

Putin blames the United States’ withdrawal from a landmark nuclear arms treaty for that potential.

Speaking at the 16th East Asia Summit on Wednesday, he said Washington’s pullout from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) could lead to escalating tensions and a standoff in East Asia.

“We have repeatedly warned that the termination of the treaty on intermediate and short-range missiles [INF] means the region is now facing the possibility of these strike weapons appearing across its vast space, and a new arms race as a result.”

Putin had warned former US President Donald Trump against the termination of the treaty, which was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It banned all land-based missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and included missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads.

Putin’s latest remarks came hours after a top US military official said China’s recent reported test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide weapon “is very concerning.” The White House claimed Beijing had tested the hypersonic missile earlier this year, but Beijing denied the narrative. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at the time that the test had been a routine one related to reusable spacecraft technology.

The United States’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said on Tuesday, “What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system.”

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,” he said, referring to the start of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union when the world’s first artificial satellite was launched by the latter in 1957. “So, it is a very significant technological event or test that occurred by the Chinese, and it has all of our attention.”

Russia, at the time, backed China’s reported test, saying that Beijing “is developing its arms systems within the framework of its international obligations.”

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