China berates 'axis of evil' remarks
BEIJING, China -- China has criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for calling North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil" during his State of the Union address.
"The Chinese side does not advocate using this kind of language in international relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a news conference on Thursday, adding that China believes all countries should be treated equally in international affairs.
"Otherwise it will damage the atmosphere for seeking solutions to relevant problems and it would not be conducive to world and regional peace and stability," he said.
During his address on Tuesday night Bush said that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and sponsored terrorism, singling them out as an "axis of evil."
Bush's comments are seen as marking a sharp shift in Washington's approach toward North Korea -- away from a gradual diplomacy based on seeking common ground and increased dialogue.
China is regarded as one of North Korea's closest allies though analysts have debated how much influence Beijing has on Pyongyang.
The U.S. president is due in Beijing for talks with Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin next month.
U.S.-Sino relations have warmed in the past few months, with Beijing backing the United States in its anti-terrorism campaign following September 11.
But Beijing has also grown anxious over America's increased presence in the Central Asian region.
'Only the beginning'
Bush said in his address he would prevent " terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world."
Focusing a large chunk of his speech on threats to America, Bush said that despite the successes in Afghanistan, "tens of thousands" of terrorists remain active and a threat.
"What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that -- far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning," he said.
"Dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning."
All three countries named by Bush as making up the "axis of evil" have rejected his comments.
North Korea's official media scoffed at Bush for identifying the country as a threat.
A newspaper commentary carried by the country's official news agency said: "The U.S. loudmouthed 'threat' from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is sophism intended to justify its military presence in South Korea and persistently pursue the policy of aggression against the DPRK."
Iran and Iraq called Bush's accusations "baseless" and "arrogant."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran considers these remarks as interference in its internal affairs."
Kharrazi went on to call the Bush comments "arrogant," according to the official state news agency IRNA.
"Bush is intending to divert public opinion from the Middle East issues by raising up a new subject and thereby pave the ground for the U.S. to continue support for Israel in suppressing the Palestinian nation," he said.
In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi parliamentarian said the U.S. leader was laying the groundwork for an American assault on Iraq.
"Little Bush's accusation against Iraq is baseless," Salim al-Qubaisi, head of the Iraqi parliament's foreign and Arab relations committee, told Reuters news agency.
"The American administration led by Bush has been threatening Iraq from time to time to prepare world public opinion for a new aggression against Iraq.
"But such threats do not scare us, as the Iraqi people are well prepared to repel any aggression or foolishness by the American-Zionist administration," he added.
The speech also sparked concerns in the Philippines.
Justice Secretary Hernando Perez was quoted by The Associated Press as saying: "It's clear in my mind that one president of a friendly country does not threaten another friendly country."
Britain, however, praised Bush's address, saying he had made a "powerful case for the coalition's actions against global terrorism."
Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman told reporters Blair considered it "entirely right" that Bush should register that there is "concern in relation to other countries."
"We have always said the fight against terrorism does not stop at Afghanistan and that there would always be another phase to this.
"Clearly that can encompass a comprehensive range of activities," he added. "It doesn't just involve military action."
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