Russia says US missile test 'escalation of military tensions'

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This US Department of Defense (DOD) handout photo shows on August 18, at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, that the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California. -AFP

MOSCOW - Moscow on Tuesday said the United States was ramping up military tensions by testing a medium-range cruise missile weeks after tearing up a pact with Russia.

"This is all a cause of regret. The US has obviously taken a course towards escalation of military tensions. We won't react to provocations," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency TASS.

The US announced on Monday that it had tested a type of ground-launched missile that was banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with the Soviet Union.

The missile was launched from the US Navy-controlled San Nicolas Island off the coast of California.

The launch was a sign of Washington beefing up its capabilities in the wake of the collapse of the INF on August 2.

Many fear the end of the INF, which Washington accused Moscow of having violated in recent years, will lead to a new and dangerous nuclear arms race.

"We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race," Ryabkov said.

He added that Moscow would stick to a unilateral moratorium on such missile systems "if and when we get them, as long as the US does not deploy them anywhere in the world".

The INF banned all land-based missiles, conventional and nuclear, that could travel between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, in an effort to abolish the class of nuclear arms that then most threatened Europe.

The missile tested on Sunday was a version of the nuclear-capable Tomahawk cruise missile. The ground-launched version of the Tomahawk was removed from service after the INF was ratified.

Ryabkov said that the test, just over two weeks after the US withdrew from the treaty, showed that it had been working on such missiles for a long time ahead of the withdrawal. -AFP


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