Washington The Bush administration intends to launch an intensive dialogue with China about strategic nuclear weapons, hoping to convince the Beijing government that U.S. missile defense plans pose no threat to Chinese security, a high-ranking White House official said Saturday.
"We are going to tell the Chinese that the missile defense shield is not aimed at them and they shouldn't feel threatened by it," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview. "We are going to give them the same briefing that we have given everyone else."
Although Rice said the administration will not make any concessions to win Chinese approval of its anti-missile program, she said the talks will elevate the strategic dialogue between the two countries and acknowledge that China's views must be taken into account.
"They are an interested party," she said. "We are clearly going to intensify our discussions with them in advance of the president's trip" to China late next month.
In the past, Sino-American nuclear arms discussions seldom have gone beyond a generalized warning from the United States against Chinese proliferation.
Although China is one of the five acknowledged nuclear powers under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chinese arsenal contains only a handful of missiles by comparison with the thousands of warheads deployed by the United States and Russia. The United States has not considered it necessary to conduct the sort of detailed arms control negotiations with China that it has conducted with the Kremlin for the last 30 years.
But Rice denied a report by The New York Times that the administration will try to overcome Chinese objections to the U.S. nuclear defense plan by telling Beijing that the United States does not object to modernization and expansion of China's nuclear arsenal.
"That is simply not going to happen," Rice said.
"We will tell them that a further nuclear buildup isn't good for peace and stability in the region."
The centerpiece of the administration's plan is a missile shield programmed to shoot down a few incoming missiles. Administration officials insist that it would not be extensive enough to turn back large nuclear attacks launched by Russia or China.
Critics of the administration's strategic defense plans contend that if the United States deploys an anti-missile system, Russia and China will respond by enlarging their offensive missile arsenals to ensure they can overwhelm the defenses.