INDIANAPOLIS • President Donald Trump has announced at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting that the US will drop out of an international arms treaty signed in 2013 by then President Barack Obama but opposed by the NRA and other conservative groups.
Mr Trump told members of the gun lobby on Friday that he intends to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was never ratified by the US Senate.
"We're taking our signature back," Mr Trump said to thousands of cheering attendees, many of whom were wearing red hats emblazoned with the Republican President's "Make America Great Again" slogan.
The NRA has long opposed the treaty, which regulates the US$70 billion (S$95 billion) business in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.
The lobbying group argues that it would undermine domestic gun rights, a view the Obama administration rejected.
Mr Trump said the United Nations would soon receive formal notice of the withdrawal.
The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the treaty in April 2013 and the United States, the world's No. 1 arms exporter, voted in favour of it despite fierce opposition from the NRA.
Mr Trump's action drew an immediate rebuke from international human rights groups.
"The United States will now lock arms with Iran, North Korea and Syria as non-signatories to this historic treaty whose sole purpose is to protect innocent people from deadly weapons," said Oxfam America President Abby Maxman.
So far, 101 countries have formally joined the treaty. Another 29, including the United States, have signed it, but not yet formally joined.
In a related development, The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Mr Trump has ordered his administration to prepare a push for new arms-control agreements with Russia and China, citing the cost of the 21st-century nuclear arms race.
But a Kremlin spokesman said yesterday that the proposals were "not serious".
"It would be ideal to clean up the whole world from the nuclear weapon... but on the other hand, we would have been deprived from the deterrent factor," Mr Dmitry Peskov told reporters on the sidelines of a summit on China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"Don't forget about the deterrent factor, about the deterrent parity."