- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld talked of military-to-military contacts with China yesterday in a meeting with that nation’s most senior officer. They also discussed North Korea’s missile program.

Gen. Guo Boxiong is a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, ranking second only to Chairman Hu Jintao, who also is China’s president. On Sunday, Mr. Hu met with President Bush at a Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg.

U.S.-Chinese military relations have been strained over many issues in recent years, including Mr. Rumsfeld’s push for Beijing to be more open about its defense priorities, its military budget and its nuclear arsenal.

At a welcoming ceremony on the steps of the Pentagon, Gen. Guo, in his People’s Liberation Army uniform, saluted Mr. Rumsfeld as they shook hands and briefly exchanged small talk with the aid of a Chinese interpreter. An Air Force band played each nation’s anthem and the two men then went inside for a working luncheon.

After their talks, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked by a reporter whether he and Gen. Guo had discussed the possibility of North Korea launching more missiles, a reference to the ones test-fired on July 4. He declined to respond directly but said they had talked about the resolution passed Saturday by the United Nations Security Council. The resolution imposed limited sanctions on North Korea and demanded that it suspend its ballistic missile program. Within minutes of the vote, North Korea rejected the resolution and vowed to launch more missiles.

U.S. officials have prevailed upon China to use its influence with North Korea to rein in the missile program.

Gen. Guo made no public comment.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said before yesterday’s talks that Gen. Guo’s visit was affirmation of a consensus reached in recent high-level meetings — including Mr. Rumsfeld’s visit to Beijing last October — that both countries should have more military-to-military exchanges and contacts.

Military relations were ruptured in April 2001 after a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane collided in flight with a Chinese fighter jet. The Navy plane made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island. The Chinese pilot died and the U.S. crew of 24 was detained on Hainan for 11 days. China refused to allow U.S. officials to fix the Navy plane and fly it off the island; eventually it was shipped home in pieces.

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