CHINA urges caution after Bush pledges to withdraw from missile treaty

Friday, August 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China urged President Bush on Friday to heed international concerns and act cautiously after he said the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Bush is pushing plans to build a system to protect the United States from missile attack. Such systems, however, are banned under the 1972 ABM treaty. On Thursday, Bush said he would withdraw from the treaty ``at a time convenient to America.''

That worries China, which fears a U.S. missile shield would undercut the deterrent effect of China's small nuclear arsenal.

``China's position on missile defense is clear-cut and consistent,'' the Foreign Ministry said Friday of Bush's planned withdrawal. ``We hope the U.S. government will seriously consider the position of the international community and proceed with caution.''

China, joined by Russia and other opponents of Bush's missile defense plans, has repeatedly urged Washington to uphold the treaty.

The 1972 treaty, signed by Washington and Moscow, banned systems that could effectively shoot down incoming missiles, preserving the strategic balance of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War. Many nations, including both Russia and China, still regard it as a cornerstone of international security.

Washington, though, says the accord is outdated and that it needs a shield to protect itself against feared missile attacks by terrorist nations.

Talks between U.S. and Chinese weapons experts over whether China is helping other countries develop missile technology ended with the American side wanting more answers, U.S. officials said.

The talks finished Thursday evening, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Beijing said Friday. But the embassy and China's Foreign Ministry refused to elaborate.

In Washington, the State Department said more talks were needed and that it was not ``fully satisfied'' with China's account of whether it is abiding by an agreement to control exports of missile technology.

Thursday's talks followed reports that Chinese firms provided missile technology to Pakistan and helped Iraq rebuild air defenses.

Vann Van Diepen, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state who specializes in nonproliferation issues, led the U.S. negotiators.

Meanwhile, a U.S. envoy's meeting with Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov ended Friday with no deadline set for when two nations must reach an agreement that overcomes their differences on the treaty.