U.S. envoy in mainland China for tough missile shield talks

BEIJING, Reuters

An American envoy arrived in Beijing on Monday to try to sell a missile defense shield system to an audience already critical of President George W. Bush’s cherished project.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly said earlier on Monday he hoped the United States and mainland China would air their views on the missile shield scheme, which Beijing has criticized for more than a year.

Kelly told a news conference during a stopover in Singapore Washington aimed for transparent consultations among Asia-Pacific nations, where opinions have ranged from understanding in Australia to strident opposition in mainland China and North Korea.

“Since our programs are only in formulation stage, since they will necessarily take a long period of time, and since they will be quite transparent as they are developed it seems to me that there is an opportunity for a lot of consultation among friends and China at each step of the way,” he said.

“I hope that’s the way it unfolds,” he told reporters.

Senior U.S. envoys have toured the world since early May to brief allies in Europe and Asia, as well as other nuclear powers, to explain the Bush administration’s defensive anti-missile shield and strategic game plan, featuring unilateral missile cuts.

The United States added Singapore to its list of countries to consult on the system, which Beijing and other critics say threatens stability and could trigger a new arms race.

Kelly, who met Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on Monday morning to brief him and other officials on the defense plan and discuss developments in the region, would only say Goh had thoughtful comments which would be considered seriously.