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Rumsfeld Heads to China to Address Security Issues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is en route to Beijing, China, today to meet with Chinese leaders and discuss mutual security interests and ways to improve the two countries' military-to-military relationship.

The visit to China is Rumsfeld's first as defense secretary and the first leg of an eight-day trip that also includes stops in South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania.

Both the People's Republic of China and the United States are putting "a lot of importance" on the Beijing visit, a senior defense official told reporters on background Oct. 14. A full schedule of events includes meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Minister of National Defense Cao Gangchuan and visits to China's Central Party School and its Strategic Rocket Forces headquarters.

While not expecting any major breakthroughs, defense officials said they're hopeful the visit will build on positive progress that continues since the two countries reached what's described as a low ebb in their relationship in 2001.

In April of that year, a U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter jet collided over international waters south of China. The Chinese plane crashed, killing its pilot. When the heavily damaged EP-3 made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island, Chinese officials detained the crew and plane despite U.S. outcries. Following extensive negotiations, the EP-3 crew was allowed to leave 11 days later, but the aircraft itself was held for another three months.

The political and military tensions that incident flamed between the two countries have eased, officials said, although one acknowledged that the United States and China remain "two serious nations with strategic interests that don't always coincide."

DoD's annual report to Congress on Chinese military power, issued in late July, outlines some of those differences, as well as U.S. concerns about China's growing military capabilities and strategic influence.

The report offers a sobering look at China's rapid military modernization effort and the lack of transparency about its military spending. It also expresses concern about China's ambitious weapons program and its intimidation of Taiwan.

Rumsfeld foreshadowed the report's findings in June during the Asia Security Conference in Singapore, and other countries in the region expressed similar concerns, the officials said.

"So we are not speaking for ourselves," an official said. "We are ... articulating the concern that is shared by a lot of other countries today in the area."

Discussions during the upcoming meetings are likely to include China's ally North Korea and lessons learned from the tsunami-support effort in the Indian Ocean, the officials told reporters.

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