US Vice President Dick Cheney warned China yesterday that its swift military build-up worried the world and said Washington was not blindly trusting North Korea to implement a landmark nuclear deal.
On the first full day of an official visit, Cheney also used a speech to a group of prominent US and Australian citizens to assail unnamed critics who he said want the allies to "turn our backs" on places like Afghanistan or Iraq.
But his visit, aimed at thanking staunch US ally Australia for its support in Iraq, was marred by a second day of clashes between police and demonstrators protesting Cheney's trip outside the hotel where he was speaking.
In some of his most extensive remarks on the North Korean pact, Cheney praised China's help but said its military build-up and anti-satellite weapons test clashed with its stated goal of being a peaceful power.
"The Chinese understand that a nuclear North Korea would be a threat to their own security," he told the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, but "other actions by the Chinese government send a different message."
"Last month's anti-satellite test and China's continued fast-paced military build-up are less constructive and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a 'peaceful rise,'" Cheney said.
China shot down one of its own orbiting weather satellites in space with a ballistic missile, provoking an international outcry amid fears over satellite security.
As for the nuclear deal, which requires North Korea to shut key facilities in exchange for energy aid, Cheney sought to allay concerns in Asia -- especially in Japan -- that the US was going soft on Pyongyang.
"We go into this deal with our eyes open. In light of North Korea's missile tests last July, its nuclear test in October and its record of proliferation and human rights abuses, the regime in Pyongyang has much to prove," he said.
"Yet this agreement represents the first hopeful step towards a better future for the North Korean people," said Cheney, who was here after a visit to Tokyo aimed at soothing worries about the agreement.
Cheney also made a full-throated defense of the Iraq war and the new US plan to pacify Baghdad, which has drawn opposition in the US even as key ally Britain announced a troop draw-down.
With US Democrats and a majority of the US public pushing to withdraw troops, Cheney warned that hastily quitting Iraq would unleash terrorists and sectarian violence on the Middle East and the world.
"The notion that free countries can turn our backs on what happens in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or any other possible safe haven for terrorists is an option we simply cannot indulge," Cheney said.
Washington and its allies are waging a battle for the survival of their civilization, he said.
"We've never had a fight like this and it's not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars," he said. "The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive, face the threat directly, patiently and systematically 'till the enemy is destroyed."
He also held out a hand to China, asking Beijing to "join us in our efforts to prevent the deployment and proliferation of deadly technologies, whether in Asia or in the Middle East" -- an apparent reference to Iran's nuclear program.
Outside the venue around 100 protesters struggled with police, who arrested four people.
Cheney later met Australian Prime Minister John Howard's chief political rival, opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who has vowed to pull Australian troops from Iraq if elected later this year.
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