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UPDATED: 12:43, July 21, 2005
White House: China not considered a threat
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The United States does not consider China a threat, the White House said after China protested about a Defense Department report which expressed concern about its military buildup.

"We're committed to peace and stability in the region, but that should not be viewed as us viewing China as a threat," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

"We're looking to move forward in a constructive and cooperative way with China, and we certainly have a very open and candid discussion with China on many issues," added the spokesman.

"We do have concerns about the size and pace of China's military modernization, and it's important for us to pay close attention to it."

Beijing reacted angrily to the report which said the size and pace of China's weapons acquisitions could threaten the military balance with Taiwan and pose a threat to other armies in the Asia region.

"The report unreasonably attacks the modernisation of Chinese national defense and rudely castigates China's normal national defence constructions and military deployment," China's Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said when he summoned David S. Sedney, charge d'affaires of the US Embassy in China, to make clear the country's dissatisfaction with the report in Beijing July 20.

"The report overlooks facts, endeavours to spread the 'China threat theory', rudely interferes with China's internal affairs and foments discord between China and other countries."

The US administration is facing mounting pressure at home over the relationship with China. President George W. Bush on Tuesday acknowledged "difficulties" with China over trade and intellectual property rights and human rights but would not discuss the military report.

"It's a good relationship but it's a complex relationship," Bush said on the sidelines of a meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

At the Pentagon, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the US position remains that any change in the status of Taiwan should be made on a peaceful basis.

"And I think that the general behavior that we've seen in that part of the world suggests that that's over time very likely how it will all work out," he said.

General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was "absolutely no reason for us to believe there is any intent on (China's) part" to wage war.

The annual Pentagon report on China's military said the weapons buildup is growing at a pace that is tipping the military balance against Taiwan but said it had only a limited ability to operate outside its own periphery.

The report groundlss put China's defence spending at two-three times greater than acknowledged by Beijing, or up to US$90 billion this year.

The report detailed China's efforts to increase its ballistic missile strength and modernize its conventional forces with acquisitions from Russia and other countries of advanced fighter aircraft, warships, submarines, precision weapons and computerized information systems.

"China does not now face a direct threat from another nation," the report said. "Yet, it continues to invest heavily in its military, particularly in programs designed to improve power projection."

"The pace and scope of China's military build-up are, already, such as to put regional military balances at risk," said the 45-page report "The Military Power of the People's Republic of China."

It said China has deployed 650-730 mobile short range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, and is adding about 100 missiles a year. In addition, it has 375,000 ground forces deployed in three military regions opposite Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives approved a measure that would penalize European firms for selling US weapons technology to China.

The amendment is a scaled-back version of a more stringent measure rejected by the House last week, after opponents complained that it could harm US business interests that sell their products overseas.

The "East Asia Security Act," authored by the House International Affairs Committee's Republican chairman, Henry Hyde and the committee's top Democrat, Tom Lantos, passed late Tuesday as an amendment to State Department funding legislation.

The bill welcomes deferral of an EU decision to terminate an arms embargo to China, but expresses concern that sales could go forward indirectly via various loopholes, since some European firms which reportedly have aided Beijing's military build-up also are participants in leading-edge US weapons programs.

The revised bill would only punish US companies guilty of exporting military technology to China if it can be proved they were aware that their products would ultimately be used for military ends.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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