Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arrives in China today. His words will be very interesting to watch on three key areas: 1) the massive Chinese military buildup, 2) cross strait relations with Taiwan and 3) six party talks with North Korea.
DEL will follow the Defense Secretary's trip and report on his various speeches and events. The Washington Post carries and AP story from Robert Burns with some good insight and quotes from Rumsfeld from on board the plane. Mr. Burns writes:
"Rumsfeld questioned China's motives in underreporting its defense spending. He mentioned no figures, but the Pentagon said last summer that China may be spending $90 billion on defense this year _ three times the announced total. 'I think it's interesting that other countries wonder why they would be increasing their defense effort at the pace they are and yet not acknowledging it. That is as interesting as the fact that it's increasing at the pace it is.'"
"In his remarks to reporters traveling with him from Washington, Rumsfeld said he would not have waited so long to accept China's repeated invitations to visit if not for the April 2001 collision of a Chinese fighter jet and a Navy EP-3 surveillance plane over international waters. The incident infuriated Rumsfeld, who responded by breaking off U.S. military contacts with China for a time."
"The Chinese, however, denied Rumsfeld's request to visit the Western Hills command center, an underground facility that serves as a national military command post. No foreigner is believed to have been inside Western Hills.
Rumsfeld told reporters on Monday that he was not disappointed that he would not see Western Hills. Of his hosts' decision not to permit the visit, he said, "'It tells something about them.'"
Rumsfeld will be meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao and on Wednesday will meet with Gen. Cao Gangchuan and give an address to a Chinese Communist think tank that was formerly run by President Hu.
Chinese Public Comments Prior to Rumsfeld's Arrival
CRI online reports today the following regarding Rumsfeld's visit:
"Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Tuesday that China is firmly opposed to all kinds of military exchanges between the United State and Taiwan.
The Chinese government is also firmly opposed to any form of US-Taiwan military cooperation including US arms sales to Taiwan, Kong said.
Replying to questions concerning the visit of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Kong said that the Taiwan issue is the core in the overall Sino-US relations."
This focus is matched by what the Department of Defense (DoD) reported to Congress in its annual China report (for information from the 2003 and 2004 reports see this DEL post). From the Executive Summary:
"The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing its forces, emphasizing preparations to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along China’s periphery. PLA modernization has accelerated since the mid-to-late 1990s in response to central leadership demands to develop military options for Taiwan scenarios.
In the short term, the PRC appears focused on preventing Taiwan independence or trying to compel Taiwan to negotiate a settlement on Beijing’s terms. A second set of objectives includes building counters to third-party, including potential U.S., intervention in cross-Strait crises. PLA preparations, including an expanding force of ballistic missiles (long-range and short-range), cruise missiles, submarines, advanced aircraft, and other modern systems, come against the background of a policy toward Taiwan that espouses 'peaceful reunification.' China has not renounced the use of force, however. Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region."
These thoughts were echoed in Sec. Rumsfeld's comments in Singapore earlier in June (DEL post here). I believe the Defense Secretary will push forward US concerns over growing China's military growth and its potential effect in Asia on his visit. The Secretary will also discuss efforts the two nations can agree on in the War on Terror. As the American Forces Press Service writes:
"He expressed hope that China will lend its influence and military capability to other constructive efforts as well. 'Certainly we are looking for ways that we can cooperate to a greater extent in the war on terror and other common interests,' he said.
China is already showing strong indications of that cooperation. Immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, China offered strong public support for the war on terror and has since been an important partner in U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
China supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, publicly supporting steps to combat international terrorism. It also contributed $150 million of bilateral assistance to Afghan reconstruction following the Taliban's defeat. China also pledged $25 million for Iraq's reconstruction."
While his phrasing will be clear and direct, likely as usual, what the Chinese say and how they say it may be a better indicator of where US-Sino relations are heading.
Update: The UPI is reporting that China announced prior to Sec. Rumsfeld's visit a "white paper" on the "Building of Political Democracy in China". This white paper seems focused on grass roots areas of democracy, most probably a city-council style approach to democracy for rural and possibly urban areas.
Update 2: tdaxp has a post about the American Arleigh Burke class destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) performing a goodwill visit in China that overlaps Sec. Rumsfeld's visit.