China opposes US withdrawal from INF

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a July 2018 summit in Helsinki -- a meeting that sparked deep criticism of the American leader (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

China on Saturday said it opposes the US decision to withdraw from a landmark Cold War nuclear missile treaty and urged Washington and Russia to hold "constructive" discussions.

Moscow and Washington have long accused the other of violating the key Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement, which was signed in 1987 and resolved a crisis over Soviet missiles.

The US has said a new Russian medium-range missile system breaches the INF Treaty and on Saturday President Donald Trump said the country was suspending its obligations under the treaty -- a move mirrored shortly after by Moscow.

"China is opposed to the US withdrawal and urges the US and Russia to properly resolve differences through constructive dialogue," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.

Geng warned the US decision could trigger "a series of negative consequences," echoing warnings by both Russia and Europe that the pull out might lead to a new arms race.

Washington also has an eye on China as the INF pact restricts the United States, but not the rising Asian power.

US officials say that some 95 percent of China's ballistic and cruise missiles -- a core part of Beijing's defense strategy -- would violate the INF treaty if China were a party to it.

Trump said the United States was suspending its obligations as of Saturday and starting a process to withdraw in six months.

China's foreign ministry ruled out the possibility of negotiating a new multilateral pact that includes Beijing.

Brokered by US president Ronald Reagan with last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower buildup of warheads that had frightened Europeans, banning ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (around 300 to 3,400 miles).