Rumsfeld questions China’s secretive military intentions
* Says world watching if Beijing charts path to open society
* China warns US against arms sales to Taiwan
BEIJING: The world is watching to see whether China will chart a path towards a more open society, and wondering why it is concealing the pace of its military spending, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
Rumsfeld, making his first visit here in his current position, said China will have to make choices between its desire for continued economic growth and efforts to control outside influences and access to information.
“Obviously, those of us in the United States and in other countries around the world hope that they make choices towards a more open society,” he told reporters as he flew here from Washington.
“But obviously it is up to the People’s Republic of China to make its decisions as to how it wants to arrange itself from a political, economic and security standpoint,” he said. “But as they make those decisions, the rest of the world sees those decisions and makes judgements about it.”
A major US concern is a Chinese military buildup that the Pentagon says is tipping the balance of power against Taiwan and could alter the military balance in the region. China still claims Taiwan as its territory awaiting reunification, despite the island being ruled separately since 1949 following a civil war, and has vowed to take it back by force if necessary.
Rumsfeld accused China of understating the scope of its Defence spending, and he said this is sowing suspicion about how China intends to use its growing military might.
In an interview aboard his plane en route from Washington, Rumsfeld questioned China’s motives in underreporting its Defence spending. He mentioned no figures, but the Pentagon said last summer that China may be spending US$90 billion on Defence this year - three times the announced total.
Taiwan is considered the most contentious issue in China-US relations and Beijing is strongly opposed to the US commitment to provide Taiwan the means to defend itself. Shortly after Rumsfeld arrived, China Tuesday warned the United States against selling arms to Taiwan.
“We’re strongly opposed to the United States having any form of military exchange or cooperation with Taiwan, including providing arms to Taiwan,” foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular briefing. Taiwan’s Defence ministry has been trying to get legislative approval for a massive 10-billion-dollar arms purchase from the United States including advanced submarines and aircraft.
Rumsfeld drew attention to China’s arms buildup in a speech in Singapore in June, which was followed by a Pentagon report that said China’s military spending - an estimated 90 billion dollars a year - was two to three times greater than disclosed. He said he did not know why China was investing so much in the weapons, which according to US intelligence estimates include 650 to 730 short-range missiles deployed to garrisons opposite Taiwan.
“I think it’s interesting that other countries wonder why they would be increasing their Defence effort at the pace they are and yet not acknowledging it,” he said. “It is almost as interesting as the fact that it is increasing at the pace it is,” he said.
Rumsfeld indicated that he would be observing what his Chinese hosts say and do during his two-day visit to get a sense of where they are headed.
He meets Wednesday with President Hu Jintao and Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan, and is being given an unprecedented visit to the headquarters of China’s strategic nuclear forces. China is expected to bring into service new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, extended-range ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles over the next several years, according to the Pentagon. agencies