SHANGHAI — President Bush won a strong condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. from Pacific Rim leaders meeting here Sunday, but he and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin continued their vocal disagreement over the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which Bush is threatening to abandon.
Bush called the treaty "dangerous," while Putin said it is "an important element of stability" in the post-Cold War era.
The two leaders met after the annual gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, an organization of 19 Pacific Rim nations plus Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The two-day summit ended with not only a counter-terrorism statement but a pledge from the participants to enhance regional cooperation against terrorism on a broad front.
They vowed to implement "faithfully and immediately" two U.N. Security Council resolutions reaffirming nations' rights to individual and collective self-defense. Bush has cited those resolutions to justify the current U.S.-led campaign against Osama bin Laden, his followers in Afghanistan and the Taliban regime there.
Calling last month's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "murderous deeds," the APEC leaders agreed that such acts are "a profound threat to the peace, prosperity and security of all people, of all faiths, of all nations."
Bush and Putin, however, failed to achieve any breakthrough regarding the ABM treaty--the issue that dominated U.S.-Russian relations before terrorists wreaked havoc in New York and outside Washington.
"We've got work to do between now . . . and Washington/Crawford," Bush said, referring to his next scheduled summit with Putin, set for Nov. 12-14 in the capital and at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Antimissile Shield Disputed
Bush has ardently promoted a high-tech shield that he reiterated Sunday would protect America against missile attacks by terrorists or so-called rogue nations.
But Putin bluntly disputed Bush's dire vision.
"It would be difficult for me to agree that some terrorists will be able to capture intercontinental missiles and will be able to use them," the Russian president said at a joint news conference with Bush.
Moments earlier, Bush had argued that both the United States and Russia "must be able to defend ourselves against the new threats of the 21st century--including long-range ballistic missiles."
"The events of September the 11th make it clearer than ever that a Cold War ABM treaty that prevents us from defending our people is outdated, and I believe dangerous," Bush said.
At another point, he said, "It was a treaty written when our nations hated each other. We no longer hate each other."
Putin's comments on the treaty, meanwhile, differed noticeably from past statements.
After the first Bush-Putin summit in mid-June in Slovenia, he called the treaty "the cornerstone of the modern architecture of international security."
On Sunday, he put it this way: "We believe it is an important element of stability in the world."
But Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security advisor, cautioned reporters to avoid inferring any shift in position from Putin's words.
If Bush did withdraw from the treaty, the move probably would arouse strong opposition on Capitol Hill. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, is among those who have said that such an action would create greater insecurity than at any time since the global nuclear buildup in the early 1960s.
So far, U.S. work on a missile defense system has stayed within the terms of the treaty. But Rice told reporters later Sunday that Bush is moving inexorably toward withdrawing from it. She did not specify a date but said the move could come "fairly soon."
Rice added: "We are not going to permit a program of testing and development to be constrained by a treaty that we think is outmoded. We think the important thing here is to move forward with some urgency to really begin to explore and to have a robust testing and evaluation program."
She said Bush "made very clear that he thinks that it's going to be time to move on fairly soon."
"The driving force here is that the president believes that we are going to need to move beyond this treaty," Rice said.
Administration sources here said one of Bush's preparations for the Putin tete-a-tete involved how to present a precise ABM withdrawal deadline.
Rice would neither confirm nor deny that.
"He did not deliver a deadline," she said tersely.
In their talks, which included dinner, Bush and Putin also discussed a significant reduction in their countries' offensive nuclear missiles, although no specific numbers were mentioned, Bush said.
Rice said the president told Putin that a U.S. review on that matter is near completion and that he would soon "get back" to Putin.
"Our task is to develop parameters of such reductions and to design a reliable and verifiable method to reduce nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States," Putin said at the news conference.
Other Issues Are Addressed