- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Chinese military officials yesterday rebuffed questions about Beijing's arms sales to rogue states and refused to renounce the use of force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland, defense officials said yesterday.

China's arms sales and its missile buildup opposite Taiwan were areas of disagreement in talks at the Pentagon led by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Chinese Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai.

This was the Bush administration's first high-level "strategic dialogue" with the Chinese military since the April 1, 2001, aerial collision involving a Chinese jet and U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sharply curtailed military exchanges after China's military imprisoned the 23-member crew of the damaged EP-3 that landed on a military base on Hainan island.

Mr. Rumsfeld said after the incident that he wants any exchanges with China's military to be more open and mutually beneficial.

In the past, critics have said China's military has learned important war-fighting information from visiting U.S. defense and military facilities. U.S. visits to China, however, have been severely restricted.

Asked whether the Chinese agreed to the new terms of exchanges, Mr. Feith told reporters after the discussions: "I don't want to claim progress . We spent some time on that subject and talked about reciprocity and transparency and what we mean by those terms and what we want to come out of our military-to-military exchanges."

Mr. Feith said he hopes the military exchanges will lead to learning about Chinese military "thinking and policies and capabilities."

The Pentagon does not want "exchanges that are showcase pieces, that suggest that there's real cooperation when there's not real cooperation," he said.

Mr. Feith said China's military agreed with U.S. views of the United Nations' work in Iraq and on working to end North Korea's nuclear-arms program.

"And the areas of disagreement were, of course, headed by the issue of Taiwan, but also touched on China's military modernization, its proliferation policies, and how these affect the stability of Asia," Mr. Feith said.

A defense source said the U.S. officials raised China's continuing sales of missile technology and goods related to chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to states such as Iran and North Korea.

"They denied everything," said a defense official familiar with closed-door discussions held with a delegation of seven Chinese military officers.

Mr. Feith said China was urged to "live up to its proliferation commitments."

"The continued proliferation by China of nuclear, chemical and missile-related materials and technologies remains a problem, and we raised questions about China's historical support for North Korea's missile program," Mr. Feith said.

"The Chinese assured us they are not providing missile technology to North Korea."

Chinese companies in the past have played a key role in sending missile technology and goods to North Korea, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Mr. Feith declined to comment when asked about a report in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times about North Korea seeking to buy a specialty chemical from China that is used in making nuclear weapons fuel.

"The general topic of Chinese proliferation was one of the topics we discussed," he said. "I can't get into the details of the discussion."

U.S. intelligence officials said North Korea was trying to purchase a chemical known as tributyl phosphate from Chinese companies.

Regarding Taiwan, Mr. Feith said the American side raised concerns about China's missile buildup, which was mentioned "in the context of discussing actions that do not contribute to the stability of the area."

"And we said we thought that is threatening and appears to be designed to, you know, coerce and intimidate, and that is not the right approach to reducing risks and tensions regarding Taiwan," he said.

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