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US Tests Ground Missile Once Banned in Former Arms Treaty with Russia

This Aug. 18, 2019 photo provided by the U.S. Defense Department shows the launch of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California.
US Tests Ground Missile Once Banned in Former Arms Treaty with Russia
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Russia is criticizing the United States for testing a ground-based missile that was banned until three weeks ago.

"The United States has…taken the course of escalating military tensions," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. He spoke to the Russian state-operated news agency TASS.

Ryabkov added that Russia would not take part in a "costly arms race."

His comments came a day after the U.S. Department of Defense announced the test. It said the missile was launched Sunday at San Nicolas Island, in California.

The missile "accurately (hit) its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight," a statement.

The information “collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense's development of future intermediate-range (missiles)," it said.

The Pentagon added that the missile was not carrying a nuclear weapon.

Until recently, the United States was barred from testing ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty was signed in 1987 by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev.

The United States withdrew from the agreement on August 2. It accused Russia of treaty violations, which Russia has denied.

U.S. officials had said for several months that they planned to carry out the test in August. Officials reportedly plan to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile in November.

Mark Esper is the new U.S. Secretary of Defense. He has talked about the possibility of the military having a fully operational mobile ground-launched cruise missile system. Esper said that if the military develops such a system, he wants to see American ground-based intermediate-range non-nuclear missiles deployed to Asia.

The Defense Secretary said the weapons were important because of the "the great distances" in the Indo-Pacific region.

"It's about time that we were…allowed to pursue our own interests, and our NATO allies share that view as well," he added.

The defense secretary was speaking to reporters earlier this month. Esper would not say when or where in Asia the missiles would be deployed, but did say he hoped the deployments would come within months.

Military experts have mostly considered what the INF treaty withdrawal means for Russia and the United States. The change also enables the U.S. military to strengthen its position against China. Esper said more than 80 percent of China's missiles are thought to be intermediate range.

I’m Susan Shand.

VOA’s Carla Babb and the Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

course – n. the action of moving in a path

escalate – v. to increase

lesson n. something learned by studying or from experience

intermediate – adj. halfway or in the middle

rangen. the space or distance between possible extremes

ballistic missile – n. a weapon that is sent over a great distance and then falls to the ground and explodes

region – n. an area

pursue – v. to follow or continue

viewn. an opinion