World reponse to President Bush's pitch for a new global nuclear order was mixed at best.
One of America's staunchest allies, Australia, expressed support, while other allies seized on the president's promise to consult with them on the matter. Even Britain and Canada stopped short of endorsing the plan.
Saying of unspecified rogue states, whose potential threats Mr. Bush hopes to deter with a global missile shield, "They hate our friends. They hate our values," Mr. Bush argued that Cold War deterrence and big ballistic arsenals aren't sufficient for global security in the 21st century.
But that contention didn't draw broad criticism. What seemed to worry nations around the globe was Mr. Bush's disdain for the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia, which prohibits development of a missile shield. Mr. Bush said the treaty "ignores the fundamental breakthroughs in technology over the last 30 years."
One Russian politician said the plan smacked of an American intention to secure global military dominance. "The ABM treaty is truly a hurdle to a U.S. monopoly in global politics," the politician was quoted as saying.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made clear that he hoped Mr. Bush would keep talking about his missile defense plans rather than scrap the ABM treaty. " the secretary-general appeals to all states to engage in negotiations towards legally binding disarmament agreements that are both verifiable and irreversible," Annan's office said.
Australia was the most positive; its government said it would allow the United States to use joint military bases for the planned missile shield.
Britain and Canada issued statements that stopped short of endorsing the plan, while Sweden, Germany and others expressed deep concern, fearing the plan could jeopardize global security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to respond later today. Putin received assurances from Mr. Bush on Tuesday that the U.S. would consult with Russia, and would not act unilaterally.
China and North Korea remained silent, but were expected to react harshly. China has campaigned tenaciously against the missile shield, which it sees as aimed at frustrating its own nuclear deterrent. Beijing has also reacted strongly to speculation that the shield could be extended to cover Japan and Taiwan.
South Korea made limited comment. In a telephone call with Mr. Bush, President Kim praised contacts with Asian nations as "desirable."
"These will be real consultations. We are not presenting our friends and allies with unilateral decisions, already made," the president said. The president spoke by telephone Monday with the leaders of four major U.S. allies Germany, Britain, France and Canada.
Mr. Bush cast the missile defense as a component in an overall shift in defense structure.
"My goal is to move quickly to reduce nuclear forces," he said, in a reference to possible unilateral cuts in American offensive nuclear arsenal. "The United States will lead by example."
Without offering specifics, Mr. Bush said his administration would change "the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces" in ways that "reflect the reality that the Cold War is over."
The United States currently has 7,295 deployed warheads to Russia's 6,094, and is committed to cutting to between 3,000 and 3,500 under the START II treaty.
The Clinton administration pursued testing of a more limited defense shield, but Mr. Clinton last fall deferred a decision on whether to build it to his successor.
The core of the Bush plan is to create a defense against ballistic missiles, targeting them either shortly after launch or in mid-trajectory. Attempts at mid-flight intercepts failed two out of the last three times in tests, but Mr. Bush Tuesday claimed new technologies show more promise.
Missile defense critics in the United States reacted quickly to the president's speech, arguing that a missile shield will be too costly, use unproven technology, respond to unrealistic threats and spark a new arms race.
"We fear the president may be buying a lemon here," said Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle said. "There has not been a shred of evidence that this works. We've got to ask some very tough questions."
Defense analysts say while a missile shield may protect against launches from countries like North Korea, Iraq and Iran, it does nothing to address the more urgent threat of a terrorist ship sailing into New York harbor with a nuclear bomb onboard.
"We need a balanced approach," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, "recognizing that missile threats are only one of many types of potential threats to the United States."
Others are worried the shield will alter the strategic balance among nuclear powers.
"It's going to start a massive new arms race," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. "In China, India and Pakistan. We're going to be less secure rather than more secure."
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