November 22, 2002

Bush Seeks Missile Defense Deal With China and Russia

The administration of President George W. Bush is confident it can reach agreement with Russia, China and other nations on nuclear weapons and missile defense, officials said on Sunday.

"We are going to make to the Russians and others an offer about a new strategic framework that we think is appropriate," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We hope it's an offer they can't refuse."

Both she and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld emphasized such a framework would not include tacit US acceptance of a Chinese missile buildup, as had been reported.

"That's not the US policy. It's simply not happening," Rumsfeld said on CNN.

The Bush administration is in the midst of a diplomatic effort to persuade Russia to join it in scrapping the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty, which severely limits missile defenses.

Talks with China are set to begin over the next few weeks.

US officials are pressing for a quick agreement, and have threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty to free the Pentagon to carry out unfettered missile defense research and testing.

A leading member of the US Congress scoffed at the administration's optimism about a deal, and said withdrawal from the treaty would be an "absolute disaster."

"They don't have a plan. This is an ideology. This is not technology. This has become their foreign policy," said Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on NBC.

"And here we are, look, in eight short months we have distanced ourselves from our allies more than we ever have before, and we brought our adversaries closer together than ever before."

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted along party lines on Friday to yank US$1.3 billion from the US$8.3 billion earmarked for the controversial and largely untested national missile defense system in the fiscal 2002 budget request.

The committee also tied the president's hands in matters dealing with missile defense, requiring the administration to obtain congressional approval before spending money on tests that could violate the ABM treaty.

"There is a hard core of people who, for whatever reason, are determined to kill missile defense. And I just don't believe that vulnerability of the American people to ballistic missiles is a rational policy," Rumsfeld told "Fox News Sunday."

(chinadaily.com.cn 09/10/2001)

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