Gates in China

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates made lit­tle progress in ad­vanc­ing U.S.-China mil­i­tary re­la­tions on his first visit to China as de­fense chief, and de­fense of­fi­cials say his talks were dom­i­nated by the usual bar­rage of Chi­nese plat­i­tudes against U.S. arms sales to and sup­port for Tai­wan.

Mr. Gates an­nounced last week in Bei­jing that the Chi­nese had agreed “in prin­ci­ple” to a U.S. pro­posal to set up a di­rect tele­phone link be­tween the Pen­tagon and the Chi­nese De­fense Min­istry. But the of­fi­cials said the hot line pro­posal has been dis­cussed for years, with prom­ises by the Chi­nese to “study” the plan but never get­ting to the point of ac­tu­ally set­ting one up.

A Pen­tagon of­fi­cial said of the hot line deal that “while we have reached this agree­ment with China, we do not want to get too far out ahead on this.” Tech­ni­cal con­sul­ta­tions and prepa­ra­tions still are needed “so that the agree­ment can be fi­nal­ized,” the of­fi­cial said.

Other of­fi­cials said the hot line will work only if it is lo­cated where the real power in the Chi­nese mil­i­tary works, namely inside the se­cret un­der­ground com­mand fa­cil­ity known as West­ern Hills, in Bei­jing, and not at the show­piece de­fense min­istry. China’s mil­i­tary is ex­pected to refuse to per­mit the hot line at the site.

Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials con­tinue to block all visit­ing U.S. de­fense and mil­i­tary of­fi­cers from see­ing the com­mand bunker, fear­ing the vis­its would en­hance U.S. intelligence-gath­er­ing or pre­ci­sion-guided mis­sile tar­get­ing. Chi­nese mil­i­tary vis­i­tors, by con­trast, have been shown very sen­si­tive U.S. mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties.

On the anti-satel­lite weapon test China car­ried out in Jan­uary, Chi­nese gen­er­als re­fused to dis­cuss the mat­ter in meet­ings with Mr. Gates, leav­ing the de­fense se­cre- tary with no an­swers about the de­vel­op­ment of a strate­gic space weapon that could crip­ple U.S. mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions in a con­flict.

“The trip failed mis­er­ably,” said a sec­ond de­fense of­fi­cial, not­ing that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary’s new tac­tic is to limit con­tacts and agree­ments with the Pen­tagon to noth­ing more than it al­lows for mil­i­tary ex­changes with other na­tions, high­light­ing the view among Chi­nese com­mu­nist and mil­i­tary lead­ers who see the U.S. as their main en­emy.

A U.S. diplo­mat said Mr. Gates, who is more fo­cused on Iraq, has shown lit­tle in­ter­est in China. “He just wants to check the box of mak­ing a trip that [Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice] and [Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Henry M. Paul­son Jr.] de­manded,” the of­fi­cial said.

Pen­tagon spokesman Maj. Ste­wart Up­ton said in sum­ming up the visit that “what will come out of it was an on­go­ing di­a­logue about th­ese is­sues [. . .] to en­ter into a longer-term di­a­logue about per­cep­tions of threats, about a world that faces a threat of nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. We see this as an on­go­ing process rather than a one-time event.”

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