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US suspends compliance with INF treaty, may withdraw in 6 months

Washington: The United States is suspending its compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia on Saturday and will withdraw from the landmark 1987 arms control accord in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

Pompeo said the administration will provide formal notice to Russia that the US is withdrawing from the INF in six months and, if Moscow doesn’t come into compliance, the treaty “will terminate”.

President Donald Trump said in a statement that “for too long” Russia has violated the treaty “with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad”.

An American withdrawal from pact has been expected for months and follows repeated accusations by Washington that Moscow is violating the treaty – a charge the Kremlin denies.

The treaty, signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,000km.

Such weapons were seen as particularly dangerous since they take only a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving little time for political leaders to ponder a response and raising the threat of a nuclear war in case of a false attack warning.

US officials have also expressed concerns that China, which is not party to the treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty’s limit.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier on Friday that he was expecting to receive official notification in the coming days. He accused Washington of being “unwilling to hold any substantial talks” with Moscow to save the treaty.