China and Russia traded accusations with the United States at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, calling each other a threat to international peace and security. The argument erupted at a meeting of the 15-member council requested by Beijing and Moscow to discuss “statements by US officials on their plans to develop and deploy medium-range missiles”. The meeting – a rare request – follows Washington’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty this month. The US withdrew, accusing Russia of breaking the treaty by developing its nuclear-capable SSC-8 missiles, which have an estimated range of 2,600km (1,600 miles). The US also said China had to show how it was cutting its arsenals. But at the meeting on Thursday, Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said that in abandoning the treaty the US was neglecting its international obligations. “It is unacceptable to use China as an excuse for withdrawing the treaty. China rejects the baseless accusations by the US,” Zhang said. “Its real purpose is to seek unilateral and absolute military superiority.” The US breaks free of its nuclear treaty with Russia to focus on its main target: China The US followed the treaty withdrawal with a cruise missile test in California on Sunday. The US Department of Defence said the missile hit a target more than 500km away. The test would not have taken place under the treaty because signatories had agreed “not to possess, produce or flight-test” ground-launched missiles with 500-5,500km range. Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper suggested that the US wanted to station intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific within months. US national security adviser John Bolton has also signalled that the missiles could be deployed in Japan and South Korea. At the UN meeting, Zhang said Beijing strongly opposed such deployments. “China firmly opposes the US deployment of land-based missiles in the Asia-Pacific region and demands that the US maintain … restraint in this regard,” he said. INF nuclear treaty: US, Russia rip up cold war-era missile pact Russia then accused the US of destabilising the region. “Because of the US’ geopolitical ambitions, we are all one step from an arms race that cannot be controlled or regulated,” said the Russian deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy. “[Washington] has consistently and deliberately violated the INF treaty for some time already.” The US dismissed the accusations, with US deputy representative to the UN Jonathan Cohen saying Russia and China still wanted a world where the US exercised restraint while Russia and China continued their arms build-ups “unabated and unabashed”. “Today, there are no US ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles. Zero … In contrast, Russia has developed and deployed multiple battalions of such missiles. China possesses approximately 2,000 missiles that would have been prohibited under the INF Treaty had China been a party to it,” Cohen said. In May, US President Donald Trump said China wanted to be part of a new three-way accord to limit nuclear arms, a claim China has since rejected. “The Chinese side has repeatedly stated its position on the so-called China-US-Russian arms control negotiations. At this stage, China does not intend or participate in the … negotiations,” Zhang said. Zhao Tong, a fellow at the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said China was not convinced that mutual restraint and cooperative arms control was best for its interests. “Many Chinese experts have a firm conviction that what wins China international respect and fair treatment is its comprehensive national power, including a world-class military. As a result, there is little appetite in China for engaging in arms control talks,” Zhao said.