DATE=6/1/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=CHINA RUSSIA (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-263071 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= INTRO: Two top U-S Defense officials say there is more rhetoric than reality to Russian and Chinese objections to U-S missile defense efforts. The comments come as President Clinton prepares to meet Russia's President for talks expected to focus on the U-S efforts to develop systems to shoot down warheads headed for the American heartland. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports, the U-S programs are the target of sharp criticism from long-time allies as well as potential foes. TEXT: Washington is working to develop several different systems to protect U-S troops and cities against ballistic missiles armed with nuclear, chemical, or germ weapons. Officials in Moscow say the proposed systems break the 1972 treaty that sharply limits Anti- Ballistic Missile (A-B-M) systems, and that they will back out of key arms control agreements if the United States continues such efforts. These agreements have cut thousands of nuclear warheads out of the U-S and Russian arsenals, and arms control advocates say sacrificing the treaties for an untested missile defense system would be a big mistake. But senior defense officials, briefing reporters at the Pentagon Thursday says Moscow has made stern threats before, but eventually backed down. One official says the Soviets walked out of arms control talks in the 1980's when Washington deployed ground-launched cruise missiles and medium range nuclear missiles in Europe. The Soviets also said they would not sign a treaty getting rid of their medium range weapons, called SS-20's. But eventually they came back to the talks and made an agreement banning all `intermediate' range nuclear forces. The officials, who asked not to be identified, also dismiss criticism that continued missile defense efforts will prompt China to modernize its modest stock of long range nuclear missiles. One says Beijing is busy developing several new long range nuclear missiles, along with a new kind of submarine to carry sea-launched missiles. Such work has been underway for many years, so the Pentagon official argues that it was not prompted by more recent U-S efforts at missile defenses. The chorus of criticism of U-S missile defense research comes not just from past cold war adversaries, but from long-time allies like France and Germany as well. President Clinton's recent offer to share ballistic missile defense technology with `civilized' nations did not seem to quell fears that the systems could ignite another nuclear arms race. U-S officials acknowledge the objections, but note that many allies are also engaged in joint research on the incredibly difficult technical problem of shooting down a missile warhead streaking through space. The officials say Washington is willing to work with Moscow on research, construction and intelligence projects to help protect Russia from missile threats. The possibilities include helping Moscow build a new radar to spot missile threats, joint research on new ways to see attacking warheads, and a permanent facility to share missile early warning data. The officials say the joint early warning system has been discussed for some time, but might get final approval at the summit between Presidents Clinton and Putin in a few days. (Signed) NEB/PT 01-Jun-2000 19:58 PM EDT (01-Jun-2000 2358 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .