By Boese, Wade
Arms Control Today , Vol. 31, No. 8
IN A SEPTEMBER 4 statement, the White House refuted reports that it plans to consent to Chinese strategic modernization efforts in exchange for muted Chinese opposition to U.S. missile defense plans. Instead, the Bush administration says that it will repeat assurances that its missile defense plans pose no threat to Beijing and argue that Chinese modernization plans are unwarranted.
The Bush administration's statement came two days after newspapers, quoting unnamed senior administration officials, reported that Washington would not object to a buildup of China's nuclear forces and would discuss the possibility of both nations resuming nuclear testing, in exchange for China dropping its objections to U.S. missile defense plans.
The reports elicited a wave of criticism, and Bush officials quickly backed away from the statements. In the September 4 release, the White House declared, "The United States will not seek to overcome China's opposition to missile defense by telling the Chinese that we do not object to an expansion of their nuclear ballistic missile force." The statement continued, "Nor will we acquiesce in any resumption of nuclear testing by China."
Resumed nuclear testing might enable China to build new and smaller warheads, potentially increasing the possibility Beijing could field missiles with multiple, independently targeted warheads.
Both the United States and China have signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bars countries from conducting nuclear test explosions. Although the Republican-led Senate rejected giving its advice and consent to the treaty in October 1999 and the Bush administration has said it will not ask the Senate to revisit its decision, the White House declared September 4, "We are respecting the nuclear testing moratorium and all other nations should as well."
Chinese officials have acknowledged the conflicting reports but have said that Beijing has yet to receive formal U.S. proposals on the issues and is awaiting a bilateral dialogue. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao added September 4, "We believe., that what is urgent at the moment is to work for the early coming in force of the CTBT. …