Thursday, April 28, 2005

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met yesterday with a top Chinese general and other military officials amid growing concern over the rapid buildup of Chinese military forces.

The meeting was part of annual defense policy talks and included discussion of a two-year-old proposal to set up a telephone link between the Pentagon and the Defense Ministry in Beijing, officials said.

China’s military in the past has not agreed to the hot line, and its stance did not change yesterday, officials said.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Hicks said Mr. Wolfowitz had a private conversation with Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of the military staff and leader of the Chinese delegation.

Gen. Xiong is known widely in U.S. defense circles for his remark in 1995 that contained a veiled threat by China to use nuclear weapons against Los Angeles, if the United States defended the Republic of China (Taiwan) in a conflict.

Among the topics discussed yesterday was “China’s military modernization and how this affects the stability of Asia,” Cmdr. Hicks said.

The U.S. side was “encouraged in the Chinese response to greater transparency in their military budget,” he said.

The Chinese will today meet with CIA Director Porter J. Goss and a senior National Security Council official.

A senior defense official said before the talks that China is making “substantial qualitative and quantitative improvements” in its forces that raise concerns about potential action against Taiwan and beyond.

“We see increased focus on a networking of capabilities,” the official said. “We see an accelerated ability by them to move a new system from the research and development phase, to the full development phase, to the deployment and operational capability very quickly, significantly faster than they have in the past.”

A second official said the buildup also includes a growing number of ballistic missiles within range of Taiwan and significant purchases of advanced aircraft, ships and submarines.

The talks included U.S. requests for a Chinese clarification of a December white paper that called the situation on the Taiwan Strait “grim” and said China is set to “crush” any steps by the island toward formal independence.

The official said the talks yesterday were part of a “re-engagement” with the Chinese military that includes efforts to persuade it to help restart the stalled six-party talks with North Korea.

China’s military “has claimed to be for the past 50 years the institution in China that is most closely aligned with or at least interacts with their peers and contemporaries in the North Korean military,” the official said.

Chinese military officials yesterday refused, as they have in the past, to discuss their ties to the North Korean military, the official said.

The U.S. side in the talks was led by Douglas J. Feith, the outgoing undersecretary of defense for policy, and included officials from the National Security Council and the military’s joint staff.

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