President Bush has avoided repeating his phrase "axis of evil" in public during his trip to Asia. But that doesn't mean he's not using this journey to help remove a nasty threat to the United States.
The threat lies in the export of missile-related technology by Chinese companies to nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. A promise in 2000 by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to prevent such exports - usually by military-related enterprises - has yet to be fulfilled.
The US has tapped its fingers long enough, waiting for China's leaders to act. After Sept. 11, patience ran out.
China and the US have learned to compartmentalize single issues such as weapon exports so they don't upset the broader harmony in relations that both nations know they must keep.
Now, as a partner in the war on terrorism, China has many reasons to comply with this vital US request. Otherwise it might be lumped in with the other "axis" nations by its US critics. (See story, page 2.)
A tangible result of Mr. Bush's trip will likely be some evidence that China is cracking down on weapons proliferation. The test for Bush is whether China is doing enough. If it isn't, another rough edge in relations will remain. And a strategic partnership against terrorism will falter.