- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

The Pentagon is preparing to resume a high-level strategic dialogue with China's military that was put on hold after a U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft and a Chinese jet collided last year, defense officials said.
The talks would be a resumption of the Defense Consultative Talks launched during the Clinton administration and criticized by some Senate Republicans and Pentagon officials as one-sided in favor of helping China's military.
Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, said he had no announcement to make on whether a new round of defense talks would be announced this week during the summit in Texas between President Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Expanded military talks will be raised during meetings today between Mr. Bush and Mr. Jiang, defense officials said.
The last round of talks were held in November 2000 and included Chinese Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, chief of military intelligence, and Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe.
The next round of talks could be held in December, the officials said.
Cmdr. Davis suggested that the talks will resume.
"We feel progress in the overall bilateral relations supports a strategic policy dialogue between our two militaries," Cmdr. Davis said. "The past year has seen the emergence of serious challenges to global peace and stability and we feel that a strategic dialogue with China on these issues would be useful."
Lower-level exchanges already have been under way, including the visit to China recently by Vice Adm. Paul G. Gaffney II, president of the National Defense University. Adm. Gaffney was the highest ranking U.S. officer to visit China since the April 1, 2001, EP-3 incident.
During the incident, a Chinese F-8 interceptor jet collided with the EP-3 over the South China Sea, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the EP-3 to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island.
The 24-member U.S. crew was held captive by the Chinese for 11 days before being released. China then forced the U.S. military to cut up the reconnaissance aircraft and send it home in pieces.
Critics of China in Congress and the Pentagon said the incident showed the failure of a key reason for U.S.-China military contacts: increased communication between the two militaries in times of crisis.
For two days after the collision, Chinese military officials refused to have any contacts with U.S. counterparts.
Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican and a co-author of legislation curbing U.S. military contacts with China, yesterday urged Mr. Bush to move cautiously in expanding military ties with China.
"I do not believe China will be a reliable ally in the war on terrorism, or on the issue of North Korea, their ally," Mr. Smith said in a statement. "At the very least, I believe that full reciprocity should be made as a condition to resume contacts, as well as strict compliance with the Smith/DeLay guidelines, as passed by Congress in 1999."
The guidelines, named after Mr. Smith and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, were imposed to prevent China from gaining militarily from the exchanges.
Chinese military officers under the old program were treated to visits to advanced U.S. military facilities, including a sensitive joint war-fighting experimentation center near Norfolk. U.S. military visitors to China were limited to seeing outdated military facilities and staged exercises that appeared designed more for propaganda.
Meanwhile in Beijing, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced yesterday the FBI is opening an office in Beijing aimed at improving cooperation against terrorism.
"The United States and China agree that the most important response to terrorism is that we act cooperatively and swiftly," Mr. Ashcroft said at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy.

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