Thursday, October 20, 2005

BEIJING — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Chinese military officials today that China’s expansion of its strategic missile forces and a lack of information about the buildup is a concern to the United States and other nations.

During remarks to members of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, a top military school, Mr. Rumsfeld said the missile force expansion allows strategic weapons “to reach many areas of the world beyond the Pacific region.”

“Those advances in China’s strategic-strike capability give us questions, particularly when we have an incomplete understanding of such developments,” he said during the last day of a two-day visit here.

Mr. Rumsfeld said China can decide how much it wants to say about its nuclear intentions but that providing “clarity” on the issue would promote “greater certainty” among nations in the region.

“A number of countries with interests in the region are asking questions about China’s intentions,” he said.

The defense secretary said the United States wants China to emerge as a peaceful partner in the international system but noted that success in closer ties will require “both cooperation and candor.”

Yesterday, China’s strategic missile forces commander told Mr. Rumsfeld that his country is not targeting U.S. cities with missiles and would not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict.

The commander, Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, made the comments in an effort to clarify recent statements by a Chinese general who said Beijing is prepared to strike hundreds of U.S. cities with nuclear weapons if the United States defends Taiwan from an attack by the mainland.

“There have been suggestions of late that China is targeting other countries. This is completely groundless,” Gen. Jing said, according to U.S. defense officials at an unprecedented briefing on Chinese strategic forces.

The comments by Gen. Jing, along with a Power Point slide presentation by another officer, marked the first time that senior U.S. defense officials were briefed inside the Chinese military’s Second Artillery Corps headquarters at Qinghe, north of Beijing.

The briefing for Mr. Rumsfeld mentioned strategic missile training, organization and weapons, including the two versions of the new road-mobile Dong Feng-31 missile — the longer-range DF-31A and the submarine-launched JL-2.

One defense official said the strategic nuclear forces discussion was an encouraging start.

“This is an opening we’ve been looking to get into for a long time,” he said.

At the military school today, Mr. Rumsfeld repeated earlier concerns that China is hiding its military buildup by publishing inaccurate spending figures.

“To the extent that defense expenditures are considerably higher than what is published, neighbors understandably wonder what the reason might be for the disparity between reality and public statement,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld also told a group of Chinese military officials at the academy that U.S. forces are modernizing to respond to “emerging threats and to deter potential adversaries,” he said.

“Forces are fast, but they must become faster,” he said of U.S. force reorganization.

Mr. Rumsfeld also met yesterday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who said furthering U.S.-China military exchanges and visits is a “vital” part of developing overall U.S.-China relations.

“The military-to-military relationship is a vital component to the overall relationship between the two nations,” Mr. Hu said during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

Mr. Rumsfeld thanked Mr. Hu for hosting his visit and congratulated China on the successful flight of its Shenzhou spacecraft, which returned to Earth on Monday.

The discussions between Chinese officials and Mr. Rumsfeld are part of an effort by China’s government to dispel Pentagon concerns outlined in a recent report to Congress on China’s military buildup.

The report said China’s growing military power poses a threat to regional security.

During his talks with Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, the Chinese official complained to Mr. Rumsfeld that congressional restrictions on military exchanges with China had limited the interaction between the two countries, according to officials.

Mr. Rumsfeld replied that even though Congress has restricted U.S. military contacts because of concerns that China could gain war-fighting information, more could be done under current guidelines, the officials said.

Mr. Hu described Mr. Rumsfeld’s meeting with Gen. Cao as “intense and candid.” He said military ties are improving, but noted that “there is room to expand.”

A defense official rejected claims that the Pentagon is “foot-dragging” on military exchanges with China as other diplomatic and economic exchanges have increased.

The official said that the Pentagon is willing to do more, but that U.S. proposals have been rejected by the secretive Chinese military.

“We’re more open, and we’re saying we want more transparency,” he said. “They’re saying their ready to do things without being very concrete.”

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