The Real Reason Behind Trump’s INF Treaty Withdrawal… Is North Korea

Tactical move is not actually about nuclear competition with Russia, despite the news headlines.

north korea
Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Corbis via Getty Images

When President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, he cited Russia’s repeated violations and the fact that the treaty does not bind China, which is involved in the world’s most ambitious ballistic missile development program.

However, the American Enterprise Institute is concluding that Trump’s withdrawal may actually be designed for another purpose: It sends a subtle but clear message to North Korea. Withdrawing from the treaty shows that if North Korea refuses to denuclearize, the U.S. can surround the country with short- and medium-range missiles that will allow the U.S. to strike the regime without warning.

The Trump administration does not seem to be making much progress in nuclear talks with Pyongyang. But the threat of intermediate-range missiles in Asia could quickly change the dynamics of those negotiations. The treaty barred both conventional and nuclear land-based missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. But since it is no longer involved in the treaty, the U.S. can deploy hundreds of missiles to Asia, including in Guam and Japan that could reach North Korean targets.

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