China spurns strategic security talks with U.S.

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China’s defense minister on Monday rebuffed an offer from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to hold strategic nuclear talks, saying military dialogue will be limited to counterpiracy, counterterrorism and peacekeeping cooperation.

Mr. Gates, the first defense secretary to visit China since 2005, told reporters in Beijing after a two-hour meeting with Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie that he is “pleased” China will “consider and study” his plan to launch a strategic-security dialogue on nuclear forces, missile defense, space and cyberwarfare issues.

But Gen. Liang largely dismissed the idea of holding substantive nuclear and security talks.

“There exists quite a number of forms of dialogue between China and the United States,” he said, noting the strategic economic dialogue and other annual defense talks.

“The Chinese side noticed the proposal of Secretary Gates on the conducting of the strategic-security dialogue, and we are studying that,” he said.

TOPICS LIMITED: Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Beijing on Monday. Gen. Liang rejected suggestions for nuclear and security talks. (Bloomberg)

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TOPICS LIMITED: Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary ... more >

Former State Department official John Tkacik, a career China specialist, said, “‘Consider and study’ is diplomatic-speak for ‘no way, no how.’”

Gen. Liang and Mr. Gates did agree to boost cooperation in nontraditional security areas, such as counterterrorism, peacekeeping, counterpiracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

China's military is engaged in a large-scale buildup of its strategic nuclear forces, with as many as three new long-range nuclear missiles and an unknown number of nuclear weapons. It also is building missiles that can destroy satellites and maneuver warheads that can target aircraft carriers.

On the eve of Mr. Gates‘ visit, the Chinese also unveiled a new advanced stealth jet.

Mr. Gates said in response to a reporter’s question about the U.S. building up its forces in response to China’s buildup, “Your question, again, goes to the importance of the proposal that I have made for an in-depth strategic dialogue between the United States and China, between our two militaries.

“I think that kind of a dialogue, really focused on the areas that I have talked about — nuclear, missile defense, space and cyber — all create an environment in which the chances of a miscalculation or a misunderstanding are significantly reduced,” Mr. Gates said.

Since taking office in 2006, Mr. Gates has tried to persuade China to hold strategic military talks, saying they would reduce mistrust and miscalculation.

However, China's military has rebuffed the talks since at least 2006. Defense officials said China's military fears such talks will disclose information about its nuclear forces and weapons that would be used in targeting or cyber-attacks during a future conflict.

At a summit meeting in April 2006 between President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, Mr. Bush directly appealed to the Chinese leader to send China’s strategic-missile commander to visit the United States as a first step in strategic dialogue. Mr. Hu agreed, but so far, the commander has not visited.

Mr. Hu will visit Washington beginning Jan. 19, and the issue of military exchanges and security dialogue is expected to be raised in meetings with President Obama.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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