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China offers nuclear assurance to Rumsfeld
Updated: 2005-10-20 20:02

Asked about the Pentagon's assertion in a report to Congress last July that China has vastly understated its defense spending, Cao said it would be "simply impossible" to increase the budget on the scale cited by the Pentagon because China is focusing its resources on fighting domestic poverty.

Chinese Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Guo Boxiong, right, shows the way to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, left, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Wednesday October 19, 2005. [AP]

"It is not necessary and not possible, actually, for us to massively increase the defense budget," Cao said, speaking through an interpreter. He defended the accuracy of China's report that its 2005 defense budget is about $29 billion, compared with the $90 billion the Pentagon claims is the true figure.

Even calculating it at a more recent exchange rate, the budget comes to $30.2 billion, Cao said.

"That is, indeed, the true budget we have today," he said.

The atmosphere surrounding Rumsfeld's visit appeared friendly and optimistic, with Cao saying the two countries have a broad range of shared interests and a solid footing for building cooperation.

Rumsfeld applauded China's dramatic economic successes, noting that when he first visited Beijing in 1974 as President Gerald R. Ford's chief of staff, the streets were filled with bicycles, not cars.

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