BEIJING – China's state press stepped up the rhetoric against the United States on Friday, accusing President Bush of threatening global peace with his missile-defense plans and saying he would ignite an arms race.
"The United States is taking a dangerous course,'' said the China Daily newspaper. "The United States ... is apparently attempting to seek absolute military supremacy and even greater global hegemony."
The attack came a day after China, in its first official response, called on Bush to scrap plans unveiled Tuesday in a speech in Washington. China has consistently opposed proposals for the United States to build a missile defense shield.
It's not clear if the tone of China's most recent comments were influenced by the unsteady state of current relations between the two powers caused by last month's incident involving the U.S. surveillance plane. The aircraft remains on Chinese territory, and negotiators have made little progress in coming up with an agreement that will put U.S-Chinese relations back on track.
Beijing urged Bush to preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which severely restricts such defenses. The treaty was signed only by Washington and Moscow, but China calls it an important arms-control standard.
Bush is considering a system that could be rushed into operation as early as 2004, possibly using weapons on ships or planes as well as on land to shoot down missiles in flight.
The plan ``will trigger a new arms race and destroy what has been achieved so far with international disarmament efforts,'' the China Daily said.
The main Communist Party newspaper People's Daily and other state newspapers published reports on foreign opposition to the Bush plan. ``Bush's speech receives criticism from every country,'' said a headline in the Guangming Daily.
U.S. allies Britain and Canada have stopped short of endorsing the plan. Sweden, Germany and others expressed deep concern, fearing the plan could jeopardize global security. Australia has said it would let Washington use its communications facilities for such a defense if requested.
China worries that missile defenses could blunt the deterrent effect of its small nuclear arsenal.
Chinese leaders also worry that Washington might extend protection to Taiwan. Beijing claims the island, ruled separately since 1949, as its territory and has repeatedly threatened to capture it by force.
The China Daily on Friday ridiculed Bush's stated goal of defending against such ``rogue states'' as North Korea or Iran.
``Such an excuse is too fragile to convince others. It hasn't even convinced the American people,'' said the newspaper.
The comments added to unusual personal criticism Thursday of Bush by the People's Daily. It called him a ``weak president'' and said he was taking aggressive foreign policy steps to combat the stigma of his controversial election victory.
``The Bush administration's behavior in the past 100 days has illustrated that an ultra-self-centered `America first' attitude is gaining more ground in U.S. foreign policy,'' the China Daily said.
It noted Bush's decision to back out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and decision to rethink support for South Korean overtures toward North Korea.