BEIJING — The U.S.-Soviet treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear weapons was made possible only because of coordinated diplomacy involving Asian countries, a senior U.S. arms control official said here Tuesday.
"Without the help of our Asian allies and friends we could not have achieved this global zero result of the INF (intermediate-range nuclear forces) treaty," Edward L. Rowny, adviser to the secretary of state on arms control matters, said at a press conference at the U.S. Embassy.
Soviet officials have indicated to U.S. officials that representations made to the Soviet Union by the governments of China, Japan and South Korea urging the total elimination of ground-launched intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles "had some effect," he said.
Part of the effort by these three countries involved stressing to the Soviet Union--in coordination with the U.S. position--that verification would be less of a problem if the treaty called for total elimination of this whole class of missiles, Rowny said.
The diplomatic endeavors of these nations also were important, he said, because at one point in the negotiations the Soviet Union said it was willing to eliminate all such missiles in Europe, but wanted to retain 100 warheads on missiles of this type in the Soviet Far Eastern.
"Any one of these (Soviet) SS-20 warheads can take out a city," Rowny said. "It's a huge warhead, the same size as one of our Minuteman warheads."
The Soviet Union now has about 630 of these warheads on missiles in Asia capable of striking China, South Korea and Japan, Rowny said. These weapons are to be destroyed in the three years after the treaty takes effect.
"A great threat to this part of the world has been removed," he said.
Rowny acknowledged, however, that only much greater cuts in nuclear arsenals will begin truly to lessen the nuclear threat.
"The Soviet Union has a large surplus of intercontinental missiles, and these intercontinental missiles can be fired at a shorter range, so the fact that they reduce their intermediate weapons doesn't mean that they've reduced the threat to Europe, or to Asia either," he said.
Push for ICBM Pact
This is one reason, he said, that the United States hopes to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union reducing strategic nuclear arms by half.
Still, 630 missiles in Asia "is not an insignificant amount," said Rowny, who was in Beijing to brief Chinese officials on the results of the summit. He met with Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian and Vice Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.