Rice expresses concern about China’s military

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Senior Bush administration officials are expressing growing fears over the rapid pace of China’s military buildup.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters yesterday that despite good ties between Washington and Beijing, the buildup is worrying.

“I think the way I’ve described it is the relationship with China is a positive one, but it has a mixed element,” Miss Rice said.

“And we’ve been — all of us — very concerned about the Chinese military buildup,” she said during a flight to Florida to attend the general assembly of the Organization of American States.

Miss Rice said one reason the administration opposed the European Union’s plan to lift its arms embargo on China is “because there is a changing military balance … in the region and we don’t want … anyone to do anything that would make that situation worse.”

On Saturday in Singapore, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that Chinese defense spending is greater than Beijing has disclosed publicly, and that China is expanding its missile forces.

“It is estimated that China’s is the third-largest military budget in the world, and clearly the largest in Asia,” Mr. Rumsfeld said at the International Institute of Strategic Studies conference.

“China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region,” he said.

Defense officials said China has deployed more than 700 missiles within range of Taiwan and is fielding new long-range missiles with advanced warheads.

Mr. Rumsfeld, previewing the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military power expected to be released soon, said Beijing is improving its ability to project power, and is developing advanced systems of military technology.

“Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?” he asked.

China’s government has said its annual defense spending is between $25 billion and $30 billion. However, Pentagon estimates of the spending, which has increased at rates of more than 12 percent annually for the past decade, is between $60 billion to as much as $100 billion a year.

Official Chinese estimates do not include Chinese arms purchases, which in recent years have included tens of billions of dollars worth of Russian warships, submarines and warplanes.

Mr. Rumsfeld noted that China’s economic growth has shadowed its military spending, but that “a growth in political freedom has not yet followed suit.”

Miss Rice said in addition to concerns about the military buildup, there are differences with China over economic issues, such as currency and intelligence property rights.

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