The View From Asia

Trump's INF move raises security risks

Asia News Network writers debate the consequences of the US nuclear treaty announcement. Here are excerpts:

US' deterrent power may shrink


The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

President Donald Trump announced that the United States will pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia.

Noting that Russia has been violating the agreement and China is developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, Mr Trump said that the US also will have to advance weapons development.

The treaty was signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1987 during the Cold War. It specified that the two countries would destroy and permanently abandon all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km. With their first framework to reduce nuclear arsenals, the US and Soviet Union established a climate for arms reduction and cooperation between nuclear powers.

Confidence-building efforts through mutual verification also led to the end of the Cold War in 1989. That spirit must be respected even today.

Russia denies violation of the treaty. The unconstrained strengthening of armaments by China, which isn't in the treaty, is also serious. Having developed and deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles, with Japan and Guam within range, China is moving ahead with a strategy of disrupting the deployment of US forces in the western Pacific.

Even if the US complies with the spirit of the treaty, if Russia and China continue their military build-up, it would become difficult for the US and its allies to maintain their deterrence.

The problem is it is not clear what sort of strategy Washington will pursue following its shocking announcement. While dealing with provocations of China and Russia resolutely, it is also necessary for the US to grapple with crafting a tripartite framework for arms control with China and Russia.

Japan still remains exposed to the nuclear and missile threats posed by China and North Korea.

A blow to nuclear disarmament

Diao Daming

China Daily, China

The importance and significance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty cannot be overstated.


Signed in 1987 between the United States and the Soviet Union, the treaty was the first important agreement between the two superpowers on effectively eliminating nuclear weapons.

Now, more than two decades after the end of the Cold War, the balance between the US and Soviet Union no longer exists, and the US has kept high strategic pressure over Russia.

On the INF, Mr Trump made the announcement ahead of the midterm elections. He is probably trying to achieve at least two things. First, he has been criticised for being "too soft" on Russia. By threatening to exit from the INF, he can, to some extent, change that perception and rally votes for the Republican Party.

Second, he could be trying to hang a sword over Russia and gain an advantage when bargaining with the latter on other issues. The US is seeking the upper hand at the cost of Europe's sense of security and amid escalating conflicts between Nato and Russia. Besides, the move might have a domino effect and damage the international society's faith in achieving nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news organisations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2018, with the headline 'Trump's INF move raises security risks'. Print Edition | Subscribe