Defense Department conducts a flight test of a new ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California at 2:30 pm PT on August 18, 2019
Photo: DVIDS

The U.S. tested a new cruise missile in California on Sunday and Chinese officials warned today that it will almost certainly lead to a new arms race.

“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said on Tuesday, according to a translation by the Manila Times.

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Geng said the U.S. should “let go of its Cold War mentality,” according to the Manila Times.

The medium-range missile traveled 310 miles (500 km) on Sunday, according to the U.S. Defense Department, and was conducted from San Nicolas Island, California, roughly 60 miles from the mainland coast in Southern California. The missile is not nuclear-equipped, at least according to the U.S. military, but resembles the nuclear-capable medium-range version of the Tomahawk missile that was pulled out of service in the late 1980s.

The new missile would have been banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that was originally signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which banned development of missiles with a range of 310-3,400 miles (500-5,500 km). The U.S. pulled out of the treaty on August 2 of this year, though China was never a party to that agreement.

The DoD released a video of the test on Monday, but it added a strange slow-motion effect to the launch that wasn’t explained. Perhaps the military just likes adding an artistic flourish to its videos now.

But China isn’t the only country upset about the new U.S. missile test.

“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said according to TASS.

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“We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race,” Ryabkov added.

And that’s where things get more tricky, because Russia is clearly engaging in its own development of next-generation weapons that could easily be mistaken for an arms race. In fact, the recent mysterious explosion that killed at least five scientists in Russia is believed to have been caused by a nuclear reactor that was supposed to power new nuclear weapons. Russian radiation detection sites have even gone dark in the wake of the incident, leading to plenty of conspiracy theories.

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While China may have a point that the U.S. is entrenched in a “Cold War mentality,” it takes two to tango. Or three, since Russia is clearly doing its own posturing in this New Cold War.

All we can say for certain is that it’s going to get a lot more hostile before anything calms down, and that’s bad news for humanity. We barely survived the first Cold War, given all the near-misses and nuclear misunderstandings we now know about from history. And it seems highly unlikely that we’d survive a New Cold War since human beings haven’t exactly gotten any smarter in the past 30 years.

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