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American Forces Press Service

China Not Strategic Adversary of U.S., Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2007 – China is not a strategic adversary of the United States, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a news roundtable yesterday.

“I do not see China at this point as a strategic adversary of the United States,” Gates said. “It's a partner in some respects. It's a competitor in other respects. And so we are simply watching to see what they're doing.”

Chinese government officials announced last week that the Chinese military budget would increase 17 percent. This would be the 19th year of double-digit growth in defense spending, DoD officials said. China will budget roughly $45 billion for defense.

However, the real size of the Chinese budget could be twice as much, a defense official said today on background. The nature of the regime is such that defense spending could be hidden, and this lack of transparency is a hindrance to better Sino-American relations, the official said.

“I think that greater transparency would help from the standpoint of the Chinese in terms of both what they're doing and what their strategies are, their intent in modernizing their forces. A greater openness about the purposes (would help),” Gates said during the roundtable. “My guess is that what they've announced does not represent their entire military budget. ... I think one of the most significant things they could do to provide reassurance to people is greater openness or transparency about what they're doing.”

The increase alone doesn’t worry Gates, as the money will buy more capability, but does not reveal the country’s intentions. China is building its capabilities and, over the past 20 years, has moved forward on modernizing and streamlining the Peoples’ Liberation Army and its rocket forces. The country also recently conducted a successful anti-satellite missile test.

In addition, the Chinese have invested in more and quieter submarines, state-of-the-art fighter/bombers and better communications and computer equipment for command and control purposes, DoD officials said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace agreed that the Chinese have built capabilities, but tried to provide context on whether China is a threat to the United States. “A threat has two fundamental parts to it: One is capacity, and two is intent,” Pace said. “When you see the global capacity growing in any area, we need to make sure that the United States military's capable of handling any threat that might develop, without regard to current intent.

“This is why in the budget, ... there's not only the money for continuing the global war on terror, but also ensuring that we have the Air Force we need, the Navy we need and all the things that we need for conventional battle, so that our potential adversaries don't miscalculate our capacities,” he added.

Pace said the United States doesn’t develop capacities aimed at any one country.

“We look at the types of capacities that are coming on line, regardless of country,” the general said. “We assure ourselves that we can deal with that capacity and that we have overmatching capacity for that. And where we don't, … we ask in the budget for the funding to be able to address that gap.”

Pace said in Indonesia in February that it was important to keep engaging China.

“Trade between the United States and China has grown exponentially in the last several years; that is good,” he said during a news conference in Jakarta on Feb. 13. “I think the more nations trade with each other and become dependent on each other, the less likely they are going to find their way into some kind of a conflict.”

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