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Aegis Ashore in Japan cannot be viewed as INF Treaty violation — Japanese top diplomat

Japan is not a party to the INF Treaty, the top diplomat pointed out

TOKYO, February 20. /TASS/. The upcoming deployment of US-made Aegis Ashore air defense systems in Japan cannot be regarded as a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, because Japan is not a signatory to it, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Wednesday during parliamentary debates.

"Our country is not a party to this treaty. Therefore, Japan has no obligations under it," he said.

Japan’s Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told the parliament on February 8 that the Aegis Ashore systems which Japan plans to buy from United States are intended solely to intercept ballistic missiles and will not have the capacity to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on February 5 that the deployment of US-made Aegis Ashore systems in Japan will violate the INF Treaty. According to the minister, Aegis Ashore are formally deployed to launch counter-missiles, but at the same time the system can be used to fire land-based Tomahawk cruise missiles, which is a clear violation of the treaty.

In December 2017, the Japanese government approved a decision to host two Aegis Ashore systems to protect the country from a North Korean missile threat. Tokyo will buy these US systems for $889 mln each. The Aegis Ashore systems are due to be deployed by 2023.

On February 1, US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that Washington would suspend its liabilities under the INF Treaty starting February 2 and would quit it within six months if Russia did not come into compliance with the agreement. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded in kind, saying that Moscow would suspend the Cold War-era treaty. Moreover, he told the ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington, underscoring that the United States should become "mature enough" for equal and meaningful dialogue.

The INF, or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, Treaty was signed between the former Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987 and entered into force on June 1, 1988. In 1992, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the treaty became multilateral with the former Soviet republics - Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine - as successors. The INF Treaty covered deployed and non-deployed ground-based short-range missiles (from 500 to 1,000 kilometers) and intermediate-range missiles (from 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers).