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China Criticizes US Plan for Missile Shield in Eastern Europe


China has voiced its opposition to a proposed U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe. From Hong Kong, Joseph Popiolkowski reports that the controversial plan is also drawing fire from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who will meet President Bush at this week's G8 summit in Germany.

China made clear Tuesday that it opposes the U.S. plan to put interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic to deter potential missile attacks from so-called rogue states.

At a weekly press briefing, Jiang Yu, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the shield would upset a delicate balance of security among major powers.

"The Chinese side has always held that missile defense impacts the strategic balance and stability," said Jiang. "It is not conducive to mutual trust between major powers and also regional security. It can also bring new proliferation problems."

China sides with Russia, another vocal opponent of the proposed missile defense system, in demanding the U.S. scrap the plan. U.S. officials say the shield is not offensive and would only be used to defend against attacks from nations such as Iran and North Korea.

China has repeatedly criticized U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Asia with the cooperation of Japan.

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered to brief China on the proposed Asian missile defense shield with the aim of reassuring Beijing that it would not threaten China's nuclear deterrent.

Russian president Putin has warned that his country could target missiles at Europe if the U.S. deploys the defense shield in Eastern Europe.

President Bush on Tuesday insisted during a news conference in Prague that the shield is not aimed at Russia and invited the Russians to take part in the project.

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