US Plans Tests This Year of Long-Banned Types of Missiles

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Once it expires, Washington and Moscow will be free to test, produce and deploy the intermediate-range missiles that both countries have agreed to ban for more than three decades.

The United States aims to test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of about 1,000 km in August, Reuters reports, citing a Pentagon official.

The pact banned all ground-launched missiles, both nuclear and non-nuclear, with ranges from 310 to 3,400 miles.

The senior US defense officials cautioned that the United States was looking at only conventional variants of the new missiles slated for testing later this year.

On February 1, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington's obligations under the INF starting February 2.

However, the two sides have been accusing each other of violating the arms control agreement amid increasing tensions in recent years.

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One official said the intermediate-range ballistic missile could be deployed on Guam, a USA territory close enough to China or Russian Federation to be considered a threat.

The U.S. ground-launch cruise missile is slated for testing in August just after the treaty formally ends.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world's two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice. But Trump withdrew from the treaty on February 1 and triggered a formal six-month wait period before the final expiry of the agreement this summer. The systems the Pentagon is planning to test are similar to the missiles that the United States deployed in the 1980s, although without nuclear warheads attached.

The envoy claimed that all decisions over the INF pact were made before the withdrawal of Washington was even announced. It may be tested as soon as November 2019, but would likely not see deployment for five years after that.

The defense officials told reporters that allies in Europe and Asia have not yet been consulted about the planned missile tests or if they would be deployed on their territory. "It is the U.S. that included a provision on R&D on these missiles in the draft budget", the Kremlin spokesman said, TASS reported.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied the allegations that the missile violates the treaty, pointing out that American missile defence systems deployed in Europe can be re-purposed for offensive use and therefore are themselves violating the accord. "On the contrary, we demonstrated to all, using arguments and proof, that it is precisely the United States that became the source of dismantling this document since it in fact made breaches (of this treaty)", the Kremlin spokesman said.