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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
US briefs China on missile defence
Pentagon official explaining missile defence system
The US wants China to share missile information
By Jonny Dymond in Washington

The Bush administration has confirmed that it will share information about its proposed missile defence scheme with the Chinese Government.

President George W Bush's spokesman described the move as part of the administration's outreach to China and Russia.

Newspaper reports also suggested that the US Government is prepared to drop its opposition to an increase in China's nuclear arsenal.

The Bush administration's desire for a national missile defence (NMD) system has caused seemingly never-ending foreign policy problems.

Opposition

The planned system has been opposed by European allies, denounced by the Russian government and condemned by China.
Missile in night sky
Tests for the new system have already begun

Now the US administration, responding to newspaper reports, has confirmed that it is making another attempt to mollify an opponent.

The president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said that the US will share information about the system with China, which President Bush will visit in October, and other nations, such as Russia.

He said the system was not a threat to China, but rather was there to protect the US from rogue nations or from accidental launches.

Nuclear arsenal

Commenting on a report in Sunday's New York Times, that the administration would drop opposition to an increase in the Chinese nuclear arsenal, Mr Fleischer said that the two issues were separate and that there was no need for a military build-up.

He also said that there were no plans to end the moratorium on nuclear testing.
Portrait of Chinese president Jiang Zemin
Chinese President Jiang Zemin will receive President Bush in October

China currently has around two dozen nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States.

US officials have suggested that modernisation is inevitable and would proceed with or without a missile defence system.

To drop US opposition in exchange for Chinese acquiescence on missile defence could advance the administration's programme, but there would be concern over the increased likelihood of a regional arms race.

See also:

29 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Powell dubs China a US friend
09 Jun 01 | Business
China and US clinch WTO deal
18 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan reaches out to China
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