Gates: China not a strategic adversary

Updated: 2007-03-08 08:32

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) speaks during a media roundtable with General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon in Washington March 7, 2007. [Reuters]
WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he did not view China as a strategic adversary of the United States despite Beijing's growing military budget.

"I do not see China, at this point, as a strategic adversary of the United States," he said. "It's a partner in some respects, it's a competitor in other respects, and so we are simply watching to see what they're doing."

Gates also said: "I think it's very important for us to engage the Chinese on all facets of our relationship as a way of building mutual confidence."

China said on Sunday it would boost defense spending by 17.8 percent this year, which follows a 14.7 percent increase in 2006 and is the biggest recorded rise in the past decade.

But Gates said the higher spending did not reveal much about China's intentions.

"It does say that China is building its capabilities," he told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon chief echoed repeated US calls for more transparency in China's military spending.

"I think that greater transparency would help, from the standpoint of the Chinese, in terms of both what they're doing and what their strategies are, their intent in modernizing these forces, greater openness about the purposes," he said.

The secretary's mild reaction stood in contrast with the White House's expressions of concern over China's announcement of its 2007 budget, and criticism of its military buildup by Vice President Dick Cheney.

General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US military considers military capabilities that countries are developing, regardless of their intent.

"We assure ourselves that we can deal with that capacity and that we have an overmatching capacity for that, and where we don't, that we ask in the budget for the funding to be able to address that gap if it exists," he said.

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