- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

The Bush administration does not plan to lessen its objections to China's strategic nuclear arms buildup in exchange for Beijing backing a U.S. missile defense shield, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday.

Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters that recent news reports suggesting such a trade-off were "not correct."

"We have concerns about the Chinese development of long-range nuclear capabilities," Mr. Feith said.

Both the long-range missile development and short-range missile deployments "have not contributed to stability," said Mr. Feith, who took up the senior defense policy-making post six weeks ago.

Asked later to elaborate on the Pentagon's concerns about China's strategic arms buildup, Mr. Feith said: "Less is better than more."

He said the Pentagon also does not plan to discuss with China a mutual resumption of underground nuclear testing.

Earlier, Victoria Clarke, the new assistant defense secretary for public affairs, was asked if the United States intended to tell Beijing that the administration is not opposed to an increase in Chinese nuclear warheads.

"Absolutely not," the spokeswoman said.

"The president's policy is to seek to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, offensive weapons around the world," she said. "He has made this one of the priorities of his administration. He wants to lessen the risk of nuclear war. He wants missile defense as one part of a broader deterrent strategy."

However, the administration will provide a briefing to China on U.S. missile defense plans, as it has done with U.S. friends and allies and Russia, Mrs. Clarke said.

China is engaged in a strategic nuclear arms buildup that includes two new types of road-mobile strategic missiles, the DF-31 and DF-41.

In addition to the two new types of ICBMs, China also is developing a new class of ballistic missile submarines known as the Type 094 that will carry a naval version of the DF-31.

A new attack submarine, Type O93, also is being developed.

China's current long-range nuclear arsenal consists of about 20 CSS-4 ICBMs. It also has a single ballistic missile submarine and hundreds of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

Asked about the buildup, Mrs. Clarke said: "We are worried about it. We have made that clear before and we'll make that clear going forward."

"Increasing nuclear weapons is not a good way to enhance international stability and cooperation."

The comments were a stark contrast to those of the Clinton administration. In the past, the Pentagon limited all its statements about China's arms buildup by saying China is modernizing its nuclear forces. No expressions of concern about the buildup were made public.

China is opposing U.S. plans for a missile defense shield against long-range attack.

Over the past several days, unidentified Bush administration officials have suggested in news reports that the administration might not oppose the Chinese strategic buildup as a way to win Beijing's support for the U.S. defensive shield.

"Our position on missile defense is that we intend to do an aggressive, robust research and development program with the intent to test and deploy a limited system that protects us, and our forces deployed abroad, and our friends and allies from the threat of missile attack from rogue nations or an accidental launch," Mrs. Clarke said.

"And the only ones who should be worried about that, or concerned about that, are those who have less than the best of intent toward us."

Chinese officials will be offered a briefing on U.S. missile defense plans in meetings set to be held over the next several weeks, she said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide