SYDNEY — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wants to deploy an intermediate range conventional missile in the Pacific region within months, now that the Trump administration has formally pulled out of a Cold War-era arms control treaty with Russia.

Esper, however, added that it will likely take some time to develop the more advanced land-based missile capabilities. The move is likely to anger China, but Esper said Beijing shouldn’t be surprised by it.

“It’s fair to say, though, that we would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Australia on Friday. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”

Esper’s comments come as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty expired Friday, and the U.S. said it planned to begin testing new missiles that would have been prohibited under the accord. The U.S. has complained for years that Moscow has been violating the treaty and that a Russian system banned by the agreement is a direct threat to the U.S. and its allies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formal U.S. withdrawal on Friday, saying that “the United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia.”

Esper, who was confirmed as Pentagon chief on July 23, wouldn’t detail possible deployment locations in Asia, saying it would depend on discussions with allies and other factors. He downplayed any reaction from China, saying that “80 percent plus of their inventory is intermediate range systems, so that shouldn’t surprise them that we would want to have a like capability.”

He said that because of the great distances within the Indo-Pacific region, U.S development of effective intermediate range precision weapons is important.