MOSCOW, Russia - Following the decision by the United States to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it has with Russia, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Saturday issued a statement opposing the U.S. move, saying it "may trigger a series of adverse consequences."
It was an ominous warning.
On Saturday Russia announced it too was withdrawing from the INF treaty, and accused the U.S. of blatant violations of the agreement, a charge that the U.S. had levelled against Russia a day earlier.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday his country will now develop missiles previously forbidden under the treaty, which he says the U.S. is already doing.
"Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same," Putin said in Moscow on Saturday.
"They say that they are doing research and testing and we will do the same thing," he said, flanked by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu whom he had met with earlier.
The Russian leader ruled out any possibility of trying to salvage the agreement which had been meticulously negotiated and agreed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and which had been in place for the past three decades.
He did say however Moscow's offer to modernize the 1987 treaty and make it more transparent is "still on the table."
"Let's wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world," Putin said.
U.S. President Donald Trump put Russia on notice late last year that he was pulling the pin on the long-standing treaty because he said Russia had been violating it.
"For years, Russia has violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without remorse," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday in announcing the U.S. suspension. "Russia's violations put millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk."
"It is our duty to respond appropriately," he said.
The U.S. on Friday formally suspended its involvement in the treaty, giving Russia 180 days to comply with its terms, after which the U.S. will withdraw from the pact altogether.
Pompeo's Russian counterpart on Saturday was firing back, insisting that Moscow "attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty."
This included "unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations," he said, claiming Washington itself had been systematically undermining the INF Treaty going back to at least the late 1990s.
He said the United States had started "testing drones that matched the characteristics" of ground-based cruise missiles, which are banned in the INF treaty.
"We will proceed as follows. We will have a tit-for-tat response. American partners have announced that they are suspending their participation in the treaty, so we are suspending ours as well," Russian President Putin said Saturday.
"They announced that they are engaged in research and technological development work, and we will do the same."
While conceding he did not want to see a new arms race, Putin said his country's suspenion would now enable it to start construction of a new medium-range supersonic nuclear missile.
The Ministry of Defense will also start "grounding" the "Kalibr" missiles and and will work on developing a medium-range hypersonic ground-based rocket."
The INF treaty bans ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Russian Kalibr missiles are a type of cruise missile that Russian forces launch from ships and submarines. Now Putin is agreeing to allow the development of a land-launched variant, RT.com reported.
This new ground launched design would be a direct violation if the treaty was still being observed, but both Washington and Moscow have now suspended compliance.
Putin said the U.S. "installed MK 41 launching systems for the defense shield in Europe that can be used to fire mid-range Tomahawk cruise missiles without any modification."
"This is a direct a violation of the INF," the Rusisan president asserted.
"Such launchers have already been completed in Romania, more are scheduled to be put into service in Poland and Japan," Lavrov added.
Putin says the dismantling of the INF is part of a deliberate strategy of Washington to get out of agreements that would lead to disarmament.
"Over many years, we have repeatedly suggested staging new disarmament talks, on all types of weapons. Over the last few years, we have seen our initiatives not supported. On the contrary, pretexts are constantly sought to demolish the existing system of international security," Putin said.