Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The commander of U.S. Pacific forces said in Beijing yesterday that he is troubled by China’s missile buildup and anti-satellite weapons, but hopes military ties to its Communist Party-led forces will improve.

“We are concerned about development of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles. We’re concerned about anti-satellite technology, execution thereof. We’re concerned about area-denial weapons,” Adm. Timothy Keating told reporters.

A year ago, China sent shock waves through military and civilian leadership by shooting down a weather satellite with a ground-launched missile in a test of a weapon that no other country has.

Area-denial arms are what the Pentagon calls weapons used to attack U.S. aircraft carriers and ships. They include ballistic and cruise missiles with precision-guided warheads for strikes against carriers and other warships that would defend Taiwan in any conflict, the Pentagon has said.

Adm. Keating is on his first visit to China since Beijing blocked the aircraft carrier strike group Kitty Hawk from making a long-scheduled port visit to Hong Kong in November. China also has blocked earlier and later ship visits.

Chinese officials did not explain yesterday their reasons for blocking the ships, but Adm. Keating said he was assured that future requests for ship visits would receive “more favorable consideration.”

“We were unhappy that the visit was canceled. We have discussed it,” he said, noting that despite his inquiries during meetings “we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on why.”

After the Kitty Hawk was denied entry to Hong Kong, it returned to its home port in Japan and on the way angered China by sailing through the Taiwan Strait.

“We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Straits in international waters,” Adm. Keating said.

Despite the Chinese stonewalling, Adm. Keating indicated he wanted to develop closer ties to a military that is controlled by the ruling Communist Party of China and not the government, singling out Gen. Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Communist Party Central Military Commission, as an emerging friend.

“We’re developing, I believe, an honest and true friendship,” he said. “I can pick up the phone and call some of these guys. General Guo, he’s going to be a pal. We’ve got differences. He acknowledges them. I acknowledge them. But we’re working through them.”

Adm. Keating said he pressed Chinese military leaders to be more open about the reasons behind their military buildup, which includes long-range strategic nuclear missiles and submarines, satellite-killing missiles and cyber-warfare capabilities.

“Increased transparency can lead to greater trust that reduces the potential for misunderstanding. Misunderstanding can lead to conflict or crisis and that is very much not in our interest,” he said.

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