Russian official says U.S. left arms treaty to build weapons to menace China

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on operational issues, outside Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov charged on Monday that a decision by the United States to withdraw from a Soviet-era arms control treaty was made so that Washington could begin to build weapons to intimidate China.

Then-president Donald Trump said in 2018 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and banned usage of nuclear-based missiles and other weapons by the two countries. Washington formally withdrew in August 2019.

The reason for Washington's decision, has now "been revealed with absolute, undeniable clarity", Ryabkov told "International Life," the official publication of the Foreign Ministry.

"Americans needed to withdraw from the treaty in order to create such systems to intimidate the People's Republic of China," Ryabkov said.

"And it is no coincidence that we have recently had a sharply intensified discussion about when and where the Americans might begin to deploy their medium-range weapons in the Asia-Pacific region. Well, in Europe as well, but above all in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Hugh Lawson)