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Pentagon cooks up report on China's military
Updated: 2005-07-06 10:14

A Pentagon report on China's military is being worked on by several U.S. government agencies, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, suggesting an expanded drive to make sure it meshes with the Bush administration's views.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listens to questions at a joint news conference with Multi-National Force-Iraq Gen. George Casey at the Pentagon in Washington, DC June 27, 2005.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listens to questions at a joint news conference with Multi-National Force-Iraq Gen. George Casey at the Pentagon in Washington, DC June 27, 2005. [Reuters]

The Defense Department is "trying to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to weigh in on it," said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, in an apparent reference to the State Department and the White House National Security Council, among others.

"And once we release it, we know it will undergo a great deal of scrutiny," Di Rita said. "We think we'll be up to that."

The U.S. Defense Department has no target date in mind for release of the 2005 annual report, officially required to be delivered to Congress by March 1 under a law passed in 1999.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said June 4 in Singapore the report would be published "soon." Di Rita said he doubted it would be this week.

The report is sensitive because China has objected strongly to being portrayed by the United States as a growing threat to the military balance in Asia.

Chinese soldiers crawl forward during military training on a beach in Yuhuan county, east China's Zhejiang province July 4, 2005. [newsphoto]
"The wave of 'China military threat theory' whipped up by the U.S. military is a dangerous practice," People's Daily said in a commentary it carried on June 15. Proponents of this view are "setting up all kinds of obstacles in the way of the development of Sino-U.S. relationships," it said.

U.S. President Bush also is seeking Chinese support on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and strategic issues, including luring North Korea back to the six-party negotiation table.

After the regional security conference in Singapore, Rumsfeld is widely reported to have ordered the draft be reworked.

"The report has undergone an awful lot of scrubbing by policy officials across the government," said Daniel Blumenthal, the Defense Department's senior country director for China region until last November.

One possible explanation for the delay in sending the report to Congress is a controversy over how much China is spending on its military.

A report released May 19 by RAND Corp. -- a research group that studies many issues for the Pentagon -- concluded that the Defense Department may have overestimated China's military spending by more than two-thirds in 2003.

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