Rumsfeld to visit China as top commander denies containment claims
AFP | September 7 2005
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will visit Beijing in October, a leading US military commander said Wednesday, describing accusations that his country is trying to contain China as "nonsense."
Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Pacific Command, said the US was seeking to expand military-to-military ties with Beijing and could soon invite Chinese military experts to observe joint US-South Korean drills.
"There are a number of visits scheduled here, my first visit, the secretary of defense next month... and then the president after that," Fallon told journalists.
"This is a very good thing at the high level because it shows by example that there is a dialogue, that people are sitting and talking to one another."
Full details of Rumsfeld's visit --- his first to China since he became defense secretary -- are still being worked out.
Rumsfeld ruffled Beijing's feathers in July when he claimed China was spending considerably more on a major military buildup than officially acknowledged. China rejected the remarks as "totally groundless".
President George W. Bush is expected to visit around the time of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Busan, South Korea in mid-November.
A trip by Rumsfeld has been rumored for years but dates have never been formally announced.
Military exchanges between China and the United States have progressed little in recent years, largely because of US disquiet about Beijing's designs over Taiwan.
China, meanwhile, has expressed concern that the US wants to "contain" its growing economic, political and military might.
But Fallon said this was "nonsense," although he admitted that there were people in both countries fueling mutual suspicions.
"The messages that I am carrying, quite simply, is let's see what we can do to increase our interactions, let's work on transparency and reciprocity, this is really critical," Fallon said.
During his week-long visit, Fallon met General Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, General Liang Guanglie, Chief of the General Staff, and General Xiong Guangkai, Deputy Chief of Staff.
He will also meet Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and visit military installations in Shanghai and Guangdong province.
Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan is in Russia.
Fallon said the two sides did not discuss in detail the historic land, air and sea military exercises held between China and Russia late last month that involved thousands of troops and a wide range of advanced weapons.
"The US did not have observers at this exercise, if there are subsequent exercises we would probably ask to observe," he said.
"The idea of having a military exercise ought to be to enhance the stability of the region and the degree to which this exercise did that, I think, remains to be seen.
"But the fact that you have two nations with significant militaries in this region actually working together, I think, is a positive sign," Fallon said.
He added that it was not likely that the US and China would be engaging in any joint military exercises soon.
But he said it would be a goal to work toward, while adding that he was willing to invite China to observe US-South Korean joint military exercises.
"I would be more than willing to invite the Chinese to come and to observe, it would probably be a good start (toward improving relations)."