China lashes out at US withdrawal from open skies treaty

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A Russian Air Force Tu-214 flies over Offutt Air Force Base, Friday, April 26, 2019, in Omaha, Neb. The flight is allowed as part of the Open Skies Treaty. China, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, is lashing out at Washington over its withdrawal from the “Open Skies Treaty” with Russia, saying the move undermines military trust and transparency and imperils future attempts at arms control. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP, File)/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — China on Monday lashed out at Washington over its withdrawal from the “Open Skies Treaty” with Russia, saying the move undermined military trust and transparency and imperiled future attempts at arms control.

The treaty, to which China is not a signatory, had allowed each country overflight rights to inspect military facilities.

That leaves only one arms-control pact still in force between the former Cold War foes, the New START treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads each may have. That treaty will expire in February and the Trump administration had said it wasn’t interested in extending it unless China also joined, something Beijing says it will not do.

“This move by the U.S. undermines military mutual trust and transparency among relevant countries, is not conducive to maintaining security and stability in relevant regions and will also have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing Monday.

Critics complain that Beijing has urged other major countries to reach arms control agreements while refusing to take part in any such arrangements, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, that expired last year.

Meanwhile, it has taken advantage of limitations set by Russia and the U.S. on each other to keep itself safe and engage in unrestricted development of weapons such as intermediate-range ballistic missiles, bolstering its military’s capabilities in the event of a conflict over Taiwan, the Indian border, the South China Sea and other Asian hotspots, critics say.

The INF Treaty “acted as a security guarantee for China: Beijing successfully made use of the mutual limitations imposed by the treaty on Russia and the United States to minimize the military threat to itself,” Russian consultant Andrey Baklitskiy wrote in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center last year.

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