Friday, February 18, 2005
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that the Pentagon was closely monitoring the growth of China's Navy as part of that country's overall military buildup. "It is an issue that the department thinks about and is concerned about and is attentive to," Mr. Rumsfeld said when asked at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about intelligence projections that the size of the Chinese Fleet could Surpass that of the United States Navy within a decade. The expansion of China's Navy is just one aspect of Beijing's military expansion that Pentagon and intelligence analysts are watching. Mr. Rumsfeld noted that the Chinese military budget had experienced double-digit growth in recent years. The concerns come as Mr. Rumsfeld has agreed in principle to pay an official visit to China later this year in what many analysts have interpreted as an effort toward mending military ties damaged after a Navy surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided in international airspace in 2001. But a recent Chinese policy paper challenging the American military presence in the Pacific, and the Bush administration's concern about China's Military buildup across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan, has prompted some statements of tension. "The People's Republic of China," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "is a country that we hope and pray enters the civilized world in an orderly way without the grinding of gears and that they become a constructive force in that part of the world and a player in the global environment that's constructive." But, he said, "They've got competing pressures between the desire to grow, which takes a free economy as opposed to a command economy, and their dictatorial system, which is not a free system. And there's a tension there, and I don't know how it'll come out, but I quite agree with you that we need to be attentive to it." Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman, said later that Mr. Rumsfeld did not mean to suggest that China was not a civilized nation, only that it had "an inward-looking government for decades and was now emerging as a global actor." On Wednesday, Porter J. Goss, the central intelligence director, also warned of China's military expansion. Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said: "Beijing's military modernization and military buildup could tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. Improved Chinese capabilities threaten U.S. forces in the region." On Wednesday Mr. Rumsfeld also offered a cautionary assessment. "They're growing rapidly and they're making significant investments in defense capabilities, military capabilities," he told the House Armed Services Committee then. "They are buying a great deal of equipment from Russia," Mr. Rumsfeld continued. "They're making an increasing amount of equipment. It's more advanced technologically. They're actively trying to get access to European technology by getting the arms embargo ban lifted from the European Union, which it looks like the European Union is along the track to do at some point. They're increasingly moving their navy further distances from their shores in various types of exercises and activities. And that's a reality."