When U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, he put the blame primarily on Russia. Moscow, after all, has been openly violating the treaty for years, essentially daring the U.S. to scrap it. But Trump also gave a second reason for the decision: that staying locked in a decades-old arms control agreement with Russia – one designed for a bygone bipolar system – limited the United States’ ability to counter hostile powers in the Asia-Pacific, a region likely to become a bigger strategic challenge for the U.S. in the coming decades. The argument, long supported by the Pentagon, rests on the fact that the INF excludes countries like China and North Korea, both of which have built up sizable arsenals including many missiles the U.S. can’t develop according to the terms of the treaty. As much as 95 percent of China’s ground-launched missiles would be banned under the INF, an arsenal that is eroding the U.S
The Future of the INF Doesn’t Matter Much for the Pacific
In or out of the treaty, the U.S. probably will have about the same capabilities and constraints in the region.