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American Forces Press Service

U.S., Chinese Defense Leaders Vow to Improve Military Relations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, Oct. 19, 2005 Defense leaders of the United States and China committed today to working to improve their countries' defense relationship, bringing it up to par with progress in the political and economic realms.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Cao Gangchuan, conducted what Rumsfeld described as "very constructive and candid and useful" talks today. Rumsfeld said he hopes the visit will elevate the countries' military-to-military relationship.

"I come away from my visit with the minister confident that we will be able to find activities and exchanges and interaction between our two militaries that will be mutually beneficial," the secretary told reporters during a joint news conference at China's Ministry of Defense following the session.

Providing opportunities for the two militaries to work together will help eliminate misconceptions and "contribute to demystifying what we see of them and what they see of us," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary acknowledged that the U.S.-China relationship "has encountered some challenges" over the years.

"But challenges also offer opportunities -- opportunities to learn from each other, to better understand each other's direction and intentions and to work seriously to find areas of mutual interest and cooperation," he said.

Following his meeting with Cao, Rumsfeld told reporters he's confident that the two leaders share many of the same aspirations. "We certainly share the hope and goal that our countries can move forward in a relationship that is candid and straightforward and ... steadily advances the peace and opportunity of the people of Asia and the people of the United States," Rumsfeld said.

Cao, who characterized his talks with Rumsfeld as "candid, pragmatic and constructive," said the two leaders "reached a common understanding" on a variety of issues.

"We believe both China and the United States are big powers and very influential countries in the world, and we also share important responsibilities in developing the world," he said through an interpreter.

Developing constructive, cooperative relations between the two countries "is in the fundamental interest of the two peoples and is conducive to world peace, stability and development," Cao said.

The defense leaders recognized that the defense relationship is "part and parcel of the state-to-state relations," Cao said, and agreed to work toward elevating the defense relationship to match strides made in other areas.

Cao expressed confidence that Rumsfeld's visit to China "will help the two sides enhance mutual understanding and build up mutual confidence" as the defense relationship moves forward.

One sticking point to that progress could be what Rumsfeld has characterized as China's lack of transparency about spending as it expands its military capabilities.

Cao insisted during today's news conference that China's top priority is to boost its economy and lift 30 million of its people from poverty. That obligation, he said, makes it "simply impossible for us to massively increase the investment into defense capabilities spending."

Accounting for the new exchange rate that China adopted in August, the country's defense budget this year is $30.2 billion in U.S. dollars, Cao said. He noted that the figure does not include some funding for equipment development, including China's manned space program.

Cao's figure is about one-third of what some Pentagon officials estimate China spends per year on its military. They acknowledge, however, that the two countries have different ways of accounting for expenditures and approaches to what costs should and shouldn't be included in the budget totals.

"That is indeed the true budget we have today," Cao told reporters of the $30.2 billion figure. "It is not necessary and not possible, actually, for us to massively increase the defense budget," he said.

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