Defense Secretary &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/usa/2001/08/13/12422.html ' target=_blank>Donald Rumsfeld accused China on Saturday of enhancing its ability to project power at a time when it faced no threat and said Beijing will have to expand political freedoms to maintain economic growth and influence.
The Pentagon has been raising alarms over China's military modernization for several years. Rumsfeld's rhetorical assault, in a speech to a conference of regional defense ministers, underscores a growing concern in the United States over China's rising military, economic and diplomatic power.
But facing an audience anxious about a possible U.S.-China confrontation in Asia, Rumsfeld toned down parts of his prepared speech and insisted Washington sought neither to destabilize China nor fan a competition for regional influence, tells Reuters.
The administration has also been increasingly disappointed by China's apparent reluctance to press North Korea to resume talks on its nuclear weapons programs, as Mr. Rumsfeld again urged China to do.
Perhaps because of his emphasis on military developments, as well as trade and democracy, Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks, while measured, were more critical in tone than those heard in recent months from other administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited China in March. Before the election last year, she and her predecessor, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/meeting/2001/06/17/7966.html ' target=_blank>Colin L. Powell, both said relations were better than they had been in years.
Mr. Rumsfeld's comments on China also stood in contrast to those on another power in Asia: India. On the flight to Singapore, he said ties with India would strengthen while those with China could fray if Beijing did not open up society more.
Mr. Rumsfeld previewed findings of the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on the Chinese military, saying: "China's defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have publicly admitted. It is estimated that China's is the third-largest military budget in the world, and now the largest in Asia."