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American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld's Rocket Center Visit Could Signal More Chinese Transparency

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, Oct. 19, 2005 Defense officials are calling Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's visit to China's Strategic Rocket Forces headquarters today a historic event that they hope signals China's willingness to be more open about its military.

Rumsfeld and his small group of advisers became the first foreign visitors to the compound in Qinghe, just outside China's capital city, senior officials told reporters.

So rare are visits to the facility, in fact, that Rumsfeld was the first person to sign a large, scrapbook-size visitor's book at the facility, officials said.

At Qinghe, Rumsfeld and his group met with Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, commander of China's Strategic Rocket Forces, and Gen. Jing Zhi Yuan, commander of the 2nd Artillery Corps, which makes up China's rocket missile force.

The U.S. officials received a briefing that included overviews of the command's organization and structure, its training practices, and weapons and equipment stocks, officials said. Senior Col. Kang Hong Gui, operations officer for the 2nd Artillery, conducted the briefing.

Along with an explanation of the command's operations, the U.S. visitors were briefed on the security of its command-and-control structure. They also received assurances that the operation is not targeting another country. Such suggestions, a Chinese official told them, are "completely groundless."

While the U.S. officials received no specific troop or weapons numbers and didn't view any maps, they called the visit to the headquarters facility a breakthrough. The U.S. military had been requesting the visit "for years," a senior official told reporters. "This is the first time we've ever engaged these folks," an official said. "We had never been able to do that in any sense."

U.S. officials are viewing the visit as "a signal (the Chinese) want to engage us, albeit gingerly," and an indication that China may be willing to lift at least some of the secrecy it's long held over its military programs. "It's an opening that we've been looking for for a long time," a U.S. official said.

Rumsfeld has repeatedly urged China to be more transparent about its military programs and spending since arriving here Oct. 17 for a three-day visit.

He emphasized that theme today during remarks to future communist party leaders at the Central Party School, during a meeting with Minister of National Defense Gen. Cao Gangchuan, and during a meeting with President Hu Jintao that followed the Strategic Rocket Forces visit.

Hu supports closer military-to-military ties with the United States and said he's looking forward to seeing the fruits of Cao's and Rumsfeld's renewed personal commitment to ensuring progress is made, officials told reporters.

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