- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia — China’s recent anti-satellite weapons test and its continued military buildup are “not consistent” with its stated aim of a peaceful rise as a global power, Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday.

In a speech in Sydney, Mr. Cheney also expressed wariness about North Korea’s commitment to a landmark deal on ending its nuclear programs.

As anti-war demonstrators clashed with police outside the hotel where Mr. Cheney was speaking, the vice president also expressed gratitude to Australia for sending troops to the Iraq war, which he said must be won or terrorists would be emboldened worldwide.

Mr. Cheney praised China for playing an “especially important” role in the negotiations that resulted in the North Korea deal, under which the North is to seal its main nuclear reactor and allow international inspections in exchange for fuel oil.

“Other actions by the Chinese government send a different message,” Mr. Cheney told the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, a private organization that promotes ties between the two countries.

“Last month’s anti-satellite test, China’s continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China’s stated goal of a peaceful rise,” he said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Cheney’s remarks. Many government offices were closed yesterday for the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday.

Beijing previously said its Jan. 11 firing of a missile into a defunct weather satellite was for scientific purposes, but the test was widely criticized as a provocative demonstration of China’s growing military prowess.

Washington said the test — which made China only the third nation after the United States and Russia to use weapons beyond the atmosphere — undermined efforts to keep weapons out of space. Beijing countered by saying the United States is blocking a potential global treaty that would ban weapons in space.

China’s military has grown rapidly along with its economy in recent years. China said in late December it was strengthening its military to thwart any attempt by Taiwan to push for independence.

Regarding the North Korea deal, Mr. Cheney said it represented “a first hopeful step” that would “bring us closer” to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula — but he also sounded a note of caution.

“We go into this deal with our eyes open,” he said. “In light of North Korea’s missile test last July, its nuclear test in October and its record of proliferation and human rights abuses, the regime in Pyongyang has much to prove.”

Mr. Cheney, a key backer of the Iraq war, praised Prime Minister John Howard for sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, saying Australians had won the respect of the world through their support of the fight against terror.

Outside, about 100 protesters waved placards saying “Go home Cheney” and “Bring the troops home.” Three persons were arrested after scuffles broke out and officers on horseback moved in to disperse the crowd.

Mr. Cheney later met with opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who wants a timetable set for withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq.

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