North Korea may suspend nuclear talks with ‘gangster-like’ U.S.: diplomat

FILE PHOTO: Hyon Song Wol, head of the North Korean Samjiyon art troupe takes a photo of Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui (C) ahead of the welcoming ceremony of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam March 1, 2019. Luong Thai Linh/Pool via REUTERS

By Joyce Lee and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea is considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink a ban on missile and nuclear tests unless Washington makes concessions, a senior diplomat said on Friday, according to news reports from the North’s capital.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington the United States wished to continue talks with North Korea and had “every expectation” that its leader, Kim Jong Un, would stick to pledges not to resume nuclear and missile testing.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui blamed top U.S. officials for the breakdown of last month’s summit in Hanoi between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, Russia’s TASS news agency and the Associated Press reported.

“We have no intention to yield to the U.S. demands (at the Hanoi summit) in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” TASS quoted Choe as telling reporters in the North Korean capital.

Choe said Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton “created the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust and, therefore, obstructed the constructive effort for negotiations between the supreme leaders of North Korea and the United States”, TASS quoted Choe as saying.

Kim is set to make an official announcement soon on his position on the denuclearization talks with the United States and the North’s further actions, TASS added, citing Choe.

Choe said Washington threw away a golden opportunity at the summit and warned that Kim might rethink a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, the AP reported.

“I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger,” AP quoted Choe as saying.

But, she added: “Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”

Bolton told reporters outside the White House that he had seen the statement from the North Korean official and that “I think that’s inaccurate.” He said he had spoken to his South Korean counterpart but wanted to consult with other U.S. officials before responding further.

U.S. SEEKS MORE ‘CONVERSATIONS’ WITH NORTH

Pompeo told reporters it was not the first time he had been called “gangster-like” by North Korea. “And following that we continued to have very professional conversations … I have every expectation we will be able to continue to do that,” he said.

Pompeo said he had seen Choe’s remarks, and she had left open the possibility that negotiations would continue.

“It’s the administration’s desire that we continue to have conversations around this,” Pompeo said. “As the president said when he was in Hanoi, the offer that they made simply didn’t rise to the level that was acceptable, given what they were asking for in exchange.”

Kim had committed multiple times to Trump in Hanoi that he would not to resume nuclear or missile testing, Pompeo said. “That’s Chairman Kim’s word. We have every expectation he will live up to that commitment.”

South Korea, which has an ambitious agenda of engagement with North Korea that is dependent on Pyongyang and Washington resolving at least some of their differences, said it was too early to tell what Choe’s comments might mean.

“We cannot judge the current situation based solely on Vice Minister Choe Son Hui’s statements. We are watching the situation closely. In any situation, our government will endeavor for the restart of North Korea-U.S. negotiations,” South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement.

Choe’s comments echoed the North’s usual rhetoric at tense points in its dealings with Washington. North Korea expert Joshua Pollack said North Korea may be delivering an ultimatum.

“They’re putting down a marker, saying which way things are headed if nothing changes,” Pollack, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said.

Joel Wit of the 38 North think tank said North Korea was likely toughening its negotiating position after the collapse of the Hanoi summit. “It is likely to gauge the U.S. reaction in the days ahead before making a decision to launch a rocket,” he said.

The second Trump-Kim summit broke down over differences about U.S. demands for Pyongyang to denuclearize and North Korea’s demand for dramatic relief from international sanctions imposed for its nuclear and missile tests, which it pursued for years in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Choe had said after the Hanoi talks that Kim might lose his commitment to pursue a deal with the United States after seeing it reject a request to lift some sanctions in return for the North destroying its main known nuclear complex.

In Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang urged patience and further dialogue between North Korea and the United States.

Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification told a press briefing that the weekly inter-Korean meeting scheduled at a liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea, had been canceled after the North Koreans said they would not be sending senior officials.

The spokeswoman said the ministry had not confirmed why the North Korean officials decided not to attend.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Choonsik Yoo, Ju-min Park, Joori Roh and Doina Chiacu, David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Nick Macfie and Jeffrey Benkoe)

U.S. says China’s treatment of Muslim minority worst abuses ‘since the 1930s’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

By Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday slammed human rights violations in China, saying the sort of abuses it had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen “since the 1930s.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted abuses in Iran, South Sudan, Nicaragua and China in the department’s annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” but told reporters that China was “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations.”

“For me, you haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s,” Michael Kozak, the head of the State Department’s human rights and democracy bureau told the same briefing, referring to abuses of China’s Muslim minority.

“Rounding up, in some estimations … in the millions of people, putting them into camps, and torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion and so on from their DNA. It’s just remarkably awful.”

Kozak said China had initially denied there even were camps, and is now saying “there are camps, but they’re some kind of labor training camps and it’s all very voluntary.”

The governor of Xinjiang said on Tuesday that China is running boarding schools, not concentration camps, in the far western region of China. The vast area bordering Central Asia is home to millions of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities.

“That does not match the facts that we and others are saying, but at least we’re starting to make them realize there is a lot of international scrutiny on this,” Kozak said, adding: “It is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today.”

The report said that in the past year, the Chinese government had significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

It said authorities there were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities.

A perimeter fence is constructed around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. This centre, situated between regional capital Urumqi and tourist spot Turpan, is among the largest known ones, and was still undergoing extensive construction and expansion at the time the photo was taken. Police in Dabancheng detained two Reuters journalists for more than four hours after the photos were taken. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A perimeter fence is constructed around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. This centre, situated between regional capital Urumqi and tourist spot Turpan, is among the largest known ones, and was still undergoing extensive construction and expansion at the time the photo was taken. Police in Dabancheng detained two Reuters journalists for more than four hours after the photos were taken. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The State Department report said government officials in China had claimed the camps were needed to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism. However, international media, human rights organizations and former detainees have reported that security officials in the camps abused, tortured and killed some detainees, it said.

Pompeo also said the Iranian government had killed more than 20 people and arrested thousands without due process for protesting for their rights “continuing a pattern of cruelty the regime has inflicted on the Iranian people for the last four decades.”

In South Sudan, he said that military forces inflicted sexual violence against civilians based on their political allegiances and ethnicity, while in Nicaragua, peaceful protesters had faced sniper fire and government critics had “faced a policy of exile, jail or death.”

The report also revised its usual description of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled.”

A separate section on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas that Israel captured along with the Golan Heights in a 1967 war in the Middle East, also did not refer to those territories as being “occupied,” or under “occupation.”

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Paul Simao and G Crosse)

Pompeo says China trade deal has ‘got to be right’: interview

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Trump will reject a U.S.-China trade deal that is not perfect, but the United States would still keep working on an agreement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a media interview.

“Things are in a good place, but it’s got to be right,” Pompeo told Sinclair Broadcasting Group, according to a transcript released by the State Department on Tuesday.

Asked if Trump would walk away from any deal that was not perfect, Pompeo said, “Yes” and pointed to the Republican president’s rejection of an agreement with North Korea at a summit last week in Hanoi.

Trump last week said that he was willing to abandon trade talks with China, but U.S. advisers in recent days have signaled more positive outcomes.

Pompeo made his remarks following stops in Iowa, where he was attending a conference for farmers, who have been caught up in the ongoing trade war with the world’s top two economies.

“This has to work for America. If it doesn’t work, we’ll keep banging away at it. We’re going to get to the right outcome. I’m confident that we will,” Pompeo told Sinclair.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. suspends compliance on weapons treaty with Russia, may withdraw in six months

FILE PHOTO: Components of SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system are on display during a news briefing, organized by Russian defence and foreign ministries, at Patriot Expocentre near Moscow, Russia January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

By Lesley Wroughton and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will suspend compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia on Saturday and formally withdraw in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

The United States would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia, which denies violating the landmark 1987 arms control pact, came into compliance with the treaty, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

“Russia has refused to take any steps to return (to) real and verifiable compliance,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “We will provide Russia and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF treaty, effective in six months.

“If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty within this six-month period by verifiably destroying its INF-violating missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment, the treaty will terminate.”

The United States alleges a new Russian cruise missile violates the pact. The missile, the Novator 9M729, is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Russia says the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty that it wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles. Russia also has rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday the United States had been unwilling to discuss the issue.

A few hours before Pompeo’s announcement a statement from NATO said the alliance would “fully support” the U.S. withdrawal notice.

Some experts believe the collapse of the INF treaty could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms.

European officials are especially worried about the treaty’s possible collapse, fearful that Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the United States and Russia.

Speaking before Pompeo’s announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the importance of using the six-month window to keep talking.

“It is clear to us that Russia has violated this treaty …,” she said. “The important thing is to keep the window for dialogue open.”

Senator Bob Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Trump failing to grasp the importance of arms control treaties or of having a wider strategy to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

“Today’s withdrawal is yet another geo-strategic gift to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” he said in a statement.

(Reporting By Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Trott)

Trump says time, location for summit with North Korea’s Kim has been set

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on border security and the partial shutdown of the U.S. government in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a time and location for his second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had been agreed upon, but he did not give any details and said they would be announced next week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Wednesday he was dispatching a team to prepare for the summit to be held somewhere in Asia in late in February.

The last summit, which took place in Singapore in June, was the first such event between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

The meeting resulted in a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But he has not yet taken concrete steps to that end, in Washington’s view.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump said he was making tremendous progress with North Korea, but provided no evidence.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by David Alexander and Sonya Hepinstall)

North Korea envoy headed to U.S. to meet Pompeo, possibly Trump: source

Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol (R) arrives at the international airport as he leaves for Washington from Beijing, China January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Matt Spetalnick and Joyce Lee

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – A North Korean envoy was headed for Washington on Thursday for expected talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a possible encounter with President Donald Trump to lay the groundwork for a second U.S.-North Korea summit, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyang’s lead negotiator in denuclearization talks with the United States, was due to meet Pompeo on Friday, the source said, the first major sign of potential movement in a diplomatic effort that had appeared stalled for months.

The North Korean visit could yield an announcement of plans for another summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who held a first meeting in June in Singapore, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There has been no indication, however, of any narrowing of differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang’s demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.

Kim Yong Chol boarded a flight in Beijing for Washington on Thursday and was expected to arrive in the U.S. capital in the early evening, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said earlier.

Pompeo had planned to meet his North Korean counterpart to discuss a second summit last November, but the meeting was postponed at the last moment.

Kim Yong Chol was last in Washington in June, when he delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Trump that opened the way for the June 12 Singapore summit.

Trump, who has been keen to hold a second summit despite a lack of obvious progress, could meet again with the North Korean envoy. While such an encounter was being discussed, it has not yet been confirmed, the person familiar with the matter said.

“We have no meetings to announce at this time,” a State Department spokesman said when asked about the expected North Korean visit.

“CONCRETE STEPS”

On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged that efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal had not made headway.

“While the president is promising dialogue with Chairman Kim, we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region,” Pence said in an address to U.S. ambassadors and other senior American diplomats at the State Department.

CNN quoted a source familiar with the U.S.-North Korea talks as saying that Kim Yong Chol would be carrying a new letter from Kim Jong Un to Trump.

Chinese and South Korean envoys on Korean peninsula affairs met in Seoul on Thursday, South Korea’s foreign ministry said. Kong Xuanyou and Lee Do-Hoon were expected to have discussed ways to achieve denuclearization.

In Singapore last year, Kim Jong Un pledged in broad terms to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula but he has resisted any tangible moves in that direction.

Diplomatic contact was resumed after the North Korean leader delivered a New Year speech in which he said he was willing to meet Trump “at any time,” South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Cho Yoon-je, told reporters last week.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Phil Berlowitz)

U.S. to host Iran-focused global summit in Poland Feb. 13-14

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa after arriving at Manama International Airport in Manama, Bahrain, Jan. 11, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to jointly host a global summit focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, next month in Poland, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

The gathering will take place in Warsaw from Feb. 13 to Feb. 14, it said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News in an interview to air on Friday that the meeting would “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

Pompeo said the meeting would “bring together dozens of countries from all around the world, from Asia, from Africa, from Western Hemisphere countries, Europe too, the Middle East of course.”

The State Department did not immediately respond when asked which countries would attend. Its statement said there were strong shared interests in Middle East stability.

“The ministerial will address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region,” it said.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top diplomat is visiting a number of Middle Eastern countries this week in an effort to shore up support in the region on a number of fronts, from the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria to the Saudi-Qatar rift to the killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Pompeo, in the middle of his eight-day trip through the region, has said the United States is “redoubling” its efforts to put pressure on Iran and sought to convince allies in the region that it was committed to fighting Islamic State despite Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

Pompeo told Fox News the summit would include representatives from countries around the world to address Iran’s regional influence as the Trump administration has sought to pressure Tehran.

Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran, even as other partners in the deal – including China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom – have sought to maintain the agreement.

In a shift earlier this week, the European Union moved to impose some sanctions on Iran.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Lesley Wroughton in Cairo; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Susan Thomas and Jonathan Oatis)

Iran confirms missile test in defiance of U.S.

FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Picture taken September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior Iranian military commander confirmed that Tehran recently carried out a ballistic missile test to the anger of the United States, the Fars news agency said on Tuesday.

The Revolutionary Guards official’s comment came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion earlier this month that Iran had test-fired a missile capable of carrying multiple warheads and reaching the Middle East and Europe.

“We will continue our missile tests and this recent action was an important test,” Guards’ airspace division head Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

“The reaction of the Americans shows that this test was very important for them and that’s why they were shouting,” he added, without specifying what type of missile had been tested.

The U.N. Security Council met last week over the test that the United States, Britain and France said flouted U.N. restrictions on Tehran’s military program.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

Iran has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly the missile program run by the Guards. It says the program is purely defensive and denies missiles are capable of being tipped with nuclear warheads.

Hajizadeh said Iran holds up to 50 missile tests a year.

“The issue of missiles has never been subject to negotiations and nothing has been approved or ratified about its prohibition for the Islamic Republic of Iran in (U.N.) resolution 2231,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

“Our defense doctrine is basically founded upon deterrence.”

Under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.

Some states argue the language does not make it obligatory.

Last month, Hajizadeh said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles.

In October, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at Islamic State militants in Syria after the Islamist group took responsibility for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them Guards members.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Andrew Cawthorne)

U.S. gives Russia 60 days to comply with nuclear treaty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a news conference during the NATO foreign ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of a arms control treaty that keeps missiles out of Europe, saying only Moscow could save the pact.

NATO allies led by Germany pressed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting in Brussels to give diplomacy a final push before Washington pulls out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, fearing a new arms race in Europe.

“Russia has a last chance to show in a verifiable way that they comply with the treaty … but we also have to start to prepare for the fact that this treaty may break down,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

NATO foreign ministers agreed to formally declare Russia in “material breach” of the INF treaty in a statement in support of the United States after Pompeo briefed them at the alliance headquarters in Brussels on Russian violations and on U.S. President Donald Trump’s stated aim to withdraw from it.

Russia denies undertaking any such development of land-based, intermediate-range Cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads and hitting European cities at short notice.

Germany, the Netherlands and Belgian are concerned about the deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe – as happened in the 1980s, touching off large anti-American demonstrations – while being caught up in nuclear competition between Moscow and Washington.

A U.S. exit from the INF treaty would put another strain on NATO allies already shaken by Trump’s demands for higher defense spending and what diplomats say is a lack of clarity about where U.S. strategy is heading on the issue.

While Stoltenberg said there would now be an intense diplomatic push to try to convince Russia to give up what Pompeo said were “multiple battalions of the SSC-8 missiles”, Washington is set to start to pull out in February, prompting a six-month withdrawal period under the accord, diplomats said.

“Its range makes it a direct menace to Europe,” Pompeo said of the missiles, which also are called Novator 9M729. He added that Russia’s actions “greatly undermine America’s national security and that of our allies”.

Difficult to detect and fired from mobile launchers, the Russian missiles are especially dangerous because they reduce the warning time that NATO air defenses might have to shoot them down, military experts say.

Pompeo said the U.S. government had raised the issue at least 30 times since 2013 with Moscow but had faced what he said were denials and counter-actions.

He also said that the United States had evidence that the test launches were from a single site in Russia, the Soviet-era base Kupustin Yar, near Volgograd, southeast of Moscow.

“In the light of these facts, the United States declares Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations … effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” Pompeo said.

EUROPE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

Washington has said it would be forced to restore the military balance in Europe after the 60-day period but Pompeo declined to elaborate, saying only that tests and deployments of new missiles were on hold until then.

He also said that because China, Iran and North Korea were not signatories to the INF, the United States was putting itself at a disadvantage by not developing medium-range missiles, citing three failed diplomatic attempts to enlarge the treaty.

However, experts believe the United States would be better off modernizing its long-range missile deterrent and ensuring that it could penetrate sophisticated Russian air defenses, rather than developing a new class of medium-range rockets.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

U.S. Cruise and Pershing missiles deployed in Britain and West Germany were removed as a result of the treaty, while the Soviet Union pulled back its SS-20s out of European range.

The treaty requires the United States and Russia “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km (310-3,420 miles), “or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Downgrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be ‘grave mistake’: Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pauses during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that downgrading U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be a mistake for national security and would not push Saudis in a better direction at home.

After repeated calls from members of Congress for a strong U.S. response, Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were briefing the U.S. Senate behind closed doors about Saudi Arabia and the Oct. 2 murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as well as the civil war in Yemen.

In a blog post, Pompeo said: “The October murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies,” Pompeo wrote.

In his remarks for the briefing, which were released as it got underway, Mattis said that pulling back U.S. military support in Yemen and stopping weapons sales to important partners would be misguided.

“Our security interests cannot be dismissed, even as we seek accountability for what President (Donald) Trump described as the “unacceptable and horrible crime” of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a crime which “our country does not condone,” Mattis said in his prepared remarks.

Pompeo made the case that the Saudis are too important an ally to lose, citing the country’s help to contain Iran in the region, secure democracy in Iraq and fight the Islamic State and other militant groups.

“The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East,” he wrote. “Saudi Arabia, like the U.S. – and unlike these critics – recognizes the immense threat the Islamic Republic of Iran poses to the world.”

Pompeo also said the United States would provide an additional $131 million for food aid in Yemen.

The nearly four-year-long war in Yemen, which has killed more than 10,000 people and triggered the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, is seen as a proxy war between Saudia Arabia and Iran.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)