SLUG: 2-275578 Missiles / Asia Reaction DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: Asian reaction to President Bush's plan to build a missile defense system has been limited so far, but official Chinese media quote analysts as critical of the plan. As Amy Bickers reports from Tokyo, South Korea says it hopes Washington will closely consult it allies on the proposal.

TEXT: China's official Xinhua news agency, which reflects the views of the Chinese government, lashed out at President Bush's plan for a missile defense system.

There has as yet been no reaction from government officials to Mr. Bush's statement Tuesday proposing a U-S missile defense shield. But Xinhua quotes Chinese analysts as saying the proposal would spark a new arms race and threaten world peace. China has long opposed any such plan as a destabilizing influence.

President Bush spoke by telephone Wednesday with South Korean Kim Dae-jung about his proposal, but Seoul did not respond to the plan itself. Instead, South Korean officials say that President Kim urged Mr. Bush to support global peace and praised him for his efforts to consult other leaders on the subject.

During the next week, Mr. Bush is dispatching senior officials to Seoul and Tokyo to consult on the plan.

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The anti-missile proposal, which includes a space-based detection system and would include space and sea-based defense, reportedly has many American allies, including South Korea, uneasy.

Seoul has yet to take a public stance on the matter.

But Washington needs the support of Japan, South Korea and other countries so that it can, if necessary, install giant radars on their sovereign territory as part of the shield.

North Korea has yet to comment but, like China, has strongly opposed such proposals.

Taiwan has declined to comment on President Bush's decision, saying the plan is an internal issue of the United States.

Some Asian nations fear that Mr. Bush's commitment to scrapping the landmark A-B-M treaty and creating the anti-missile shield could jeopardize global security. Some are concerned such moves could trigger an arms race, with various countries trying to develop weapons that could penetrate the shield.

Australia says it shares Washington's concerns over potential missile threats from so-called

rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq. An Australian government spokesman said

Wednesday that joint military bases could be used for missile shield communications.

In contrast, New Zealand is critical, saying that the move may be interpreted as a U-S effort to maintain a clear edge for its nuclear weapons force. (SIGNED)