Mainland China says ready for missile talks with U.S.

BEIJING, Reuters

Mainland China remains “firmly opposed” to U.S. President George W. Bush’s plans to develop a missile defense system but is ready to discuss the issue with a U.S. mission next week, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“If the U.S. side is willing to send an envoy here, we are willing to have consultations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told a news conference. The U.S. State Department announced last week that a mission led by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly would visit mainland China on May 14 and 15 as part of consultations on Bush’s National Missile Defense plan.

Sun repeated Beijing’s opposition to the missile shield plan that would effectively abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, a central Cold War-era treaty barring such defenses.

“As we have stated many times, we are firmly opposed to this,” Sun said. “We hope the U.S. will proceed cautiously and continue to abide by the ABM.”

The Kelly trip to mainland China follows visits by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Japan and South Korea this week to explain the ideas Bush announced in a recent speech on missile defense.

Bush has laid out a vision of 21st century security based on smaller offensive nuclear arsenals and defenses capable of intercepting missiles fired by so called rogue states such as North Korea or Iraq.

Washington is also considering a so-called Theater Missile Defense plan to protect allies, like Japan, and its own troops in northeast Asia.