Russia, China Denounce U.S. Plans for Missile Defense

Article excerpt

Russia and China reacted harshly yesterday to Pentagon plans for funding the possible deployment of a national missile defense system, while the White House backed away from abandoning a 1972 arms treaty if it prevents needed U.S. defenses.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin received a letter sent the past weekend from President Clinton outlining U.S. national missile defense plans and proposing to discuss changing the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Russian officials said in Moscow. Yeltsin aide Sergei Prikhodko said "we are working out our position."

Russia's Defense Ministry, however, said that any changes in the treaty would not be in Russia's interest.

"Any attempts to break out of the ABM treaty are regarded in the Defense Ministry as a violation of strategic stability," Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, head of the ministry's international cooperation section, told the Interfax news agency.

A Chinese government spokesman said that Beijing opposes U.S. missile defense plans because they would undermine international nuclear stability.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will discuss U.S. missile defense plans and ABM treaty changes in Moscow next week.

Robert Bell, White House National Security Council arms control specialist, said yesterday that "all issues" involving the national missile defense plans "must, of course, be addressed within the context of the ABM treaty," which he called the "cornerstone" of U.S. strategic stability.

"We have said many times before that deployment may or may not require modifications to the treaty," Mr. Bell said in response to the Pentagon's announcement.

The statement contrasted with comments by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who announced that the administration would seek to modify the treaty in talks with Russia if a missile defense is deployed, and that if the treaty cannot be changed, the United States could abandon it. …