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Bush Reaffirms US First Strike Policy

President Bush has reaffirmed that the U.S. may consider pre-emptive military strikes against terrorists and enemy nations.

Outlining his second term national security strategy, Mr. Bush says America prefers using diplomacy to halt the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. But in the report issued Thursday, the president adds the U.S. could launch a first-strike even if there is uncertainty about the time or place of an enemy attack.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was later asked about international law against pre-emptive strikes. He defended the policy, calling it an "inherent right to self-defense."

In the report, Mr. Bush singles out Iran as perhaps posing the biggest threat by a single country. He argues that diplomacy to get Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions must succeed "if confrontation is to be avoided."

Mr. Bush also points to the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. Iran and North Korea are in a group of seven nations denounced for what the president calls their "despotic systems." Also on the list are Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe.

Mr. Bush addresses administration's concerns about the Chinese and Russian government's current policies, and their effect on U.S. national and economic security.

He criticizes what he calls "old ways of thinking and acting" by Beijing in its competition for energy resources. He argues that China's leaders are "expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up."

Reflecting rising tensions between Washington and Moscow, the president writes in the report that he is worried that Russia is falling off the path to democracy. He says recent trends "regrettably point toward a diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions". Mr. Bush says future relations will depend on both Russia's domestic and foreign policies.