China to get update on U.S. missile defense plans before Bush visit in October
WASHINGTON (AP) – China will get an update on U.S. missile defense plans before President Bush visits Beijing next month as the United States tries to convince other countries that the proposed shield is not a threat, the White House said Sunday.
”This is part of the administration’s outreach to China and other nations such as Russia to discuss with them the reason why we are developing a missile defense system and how it is designed to protect us from rogue nations or accidental launches,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a telephone interview.
”It is something we are hoping they will support because it is not aimed at China,” he said. ”The president thinks it is important to consult with our allies and other nations.”
Fleischer denied that the Bush administration was courting China’s support of the missile defense system in exchange for U.S. acceptance of a nuclear or military buildup by Beijing, as reported in Sunday’s New York Times.
The White House is pursuing missile defense ”separate and apart” from the issue of China’s desire to expand its limited arsenal of nuclear missiles, Fleischer said. ”The United States has made it clear and continues to make it clear that a military buildup there is not necessary.”
He also said there was no change in U.S. policy on the testing of nuclear weapons, now precluded by a worldwide moratorium. ”We have no plans to resume testing,” Fleischer said.
The United States might raise the future possibility of underground tests being resumed in both nations, according to the Times and The Washington Post.
Initial Capitol Hill reaction to those reports was critical.
”I would not like to see the Chinese expand their nuclear capabilities,” said Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday on CBS’ ”Face the Nation. ”I think it is much too soon to even think about matters that offset our missile defense.”
China is ”the coming colossus of the world and a superpower,” said Specter, R-Pa., who added he had just returned from a China trip where he talked with government leaders. ”I would not want to see them become any more powerful in the nuclear line. I think we ought to formulate our policy in many different ways to try to avoid just that.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said on CNN’s ”Late Edition” that the United States ”ought to try to continue to put pressure on the Chinese and others not to have offensive weapons buildup. Our entire approach ought to be to reduce the nuclear threat, not increase it.”
Fleischer said the system is intended to protect the United States and its allies from hostile nations with missile capabilities such as Iran, Iraq and Libya.
”Other nations have nothing to worry about from American development of a missile defense system,” he said. ”It will protect the peace in the world … when the real threat to peace are these rogue nations.”
China fears the missile shield would undercut the deterrent effect of China’s small nuclear arsenal.
”China’s position on missile defense is clear-cut and consistent,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in late August after Bush said the United States would withdraw a 1972 arms control treaty signed by Washington and Moscow. ”We hope the U.S. government will seriously consider the position of the international community and proceed with caution.”
A missile shield, now in its early stages of development, would knock enemy missiles out of the sky before they reach the United States.
China now has some two dozen missiles aimed at the United States; experts say that number could increase tenfold over the next 10 years.
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