Earlier this year, the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. What lies behind the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 1987 nuclear arms control pact with Russia and how might it affect the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region? To find answers, The Asahi Shimbun consulted defense experts in Japan and the United States.

Below are excerpts of an interview with Franklin Miller, who served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush:

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Question: The Trump administration announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. What's your take on that?

Miller: I think when you write you need to be clear that the comment that the U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty is misleading. The treaty doesn't exist anymore. The thing that's so important is the Russians came to the (George W.) Bush 43 administration and said, "Let's both get out of the treaty.” And the Bush 43 administration said, “No, we're not going to do that.” So the Russian government decided, "OK, we're going to do this on our own.” You read the press all the time: “U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty, U.S. broke the INF Treaty.” It's because the administration isn’t doing a good job of telling its own story.

Q: Some officials mentioned that the actual primary reason for U.S. withdrawal was Russian violations, but the best reason is China.

A: What I would say to you is this. Whatever the concerns, and there are concerns because the ballistic missile program the Chinese have which threatens you, which threatens us, if Russia wasn't cheating, none of this would have happened. If the Russians had not been cheating and the Chinese threat was still there, we would still be in the INF Treaty. It's the Russian cheating that destroyed the treaty. That's the key.

The second part of the story is what the U.S. is going to do about this on a military ... What's the next step? And the short answer is nobody knows. The government has not made a decision.

Q: It has been mentioned that the Trump administration withdrew from the INF Treaty in order to make China sit down at the negotiating table. While that may be the case, I believe China has no intention of negotiating a reduction in their INFs, one of their most important tactical weapons. How do you predict China will respond to the U.S.’s 180-degree change in its stance on INFs?

A: I don't think so. I think Xi Jinping is trying to create an image of military strength, and so I don't think he's interested in arms control at this point. China's absolutely developing INFs including with U.S. technology that they stole from the old Pershing II missile from INF days.

Q: If Russia were to relocate their INFs to their East Coast, where they would be across the border from China, would China then deploy their INFs on the border with Russia as a deterrent?

A: That's possible. We saw this movie before in the INF Treaty in '86, '85. The Russians tried to say, "We'll put these things in the Far East, and we'll just have a treaty about Western Europe NATO." And we said no because that exposes our Japanese allies in a way that it doesn't expose our NATO allies. We want a global zero on INF.

Currently, the treaty-violating missile, the SSC-8, is in Western Russia. Presumably, one of the reasons they bought it is also for the Chinese. You don't have to move it too close to the border. If it's got a range that's above 500 kilometers, it wouldn't have to be that close. That would be an interesting deterrent situation.

Q: There is some talk in the Pentagon about testing a Tomahawk cruise missile on a truck.

A: The range is too short.

Q: Japan could be a strong candidate for the U.S. deployment of their INFs.

A: U.S. proposal to put INF-type weapons on Japanese soil would create a huge problem for the Japanese government, huge political problem. It would be a very difficult fight for the government, and it would create divisions in Japanese society about pro-U.S. and anti-U.S. That's not very helpful to either Washington or Tokyo. Nobody wants to do that. It's obviously not going to be new missiles in Japan. Even without nuclear warheads.

Q: How could Japan and the U.S. counteract Chinese missiles?

A: If we continue to proceed, as I think we will, with boost-glide vehicles. There's a new test, I think, next year, 2020. We can have those things in the force by 2025. Those are powerful conventional weapons.

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Franklin Miller is a principal of The Scowcroft Group. He served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush and senior director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council staff.

(INTERVIEW/ Andrew Krepinevich: Stable U.S.-China military balance needed in Western Pacific)

(INTERVIEW/ Hirofumi Tosaki: Japan, U.S., China need to talk about arms control in Asia)