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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China reaffirms 'no first strike'

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China reaffirms 'no first strike' China reaffirms 'no first strike'
A senior Chinese general has assured US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of Beijing's "no first use" of nuclear weapons policy, reports say.

US officials said Gen Zing Zhiyuan made the remarks when Mr Rumsfeld paid an unprecedented visit to the headquarters of China's nuclear arsenal.

There have been concerns that China might use nuclear weapons if the US intervened in a conflict with Taiwan.

Meanwhile Chinese President Hu Jintao urged better military ties with the US.

In a meeting with Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Hu said although the military relationship had improved in recent years there was still room to expand, US defence officials said.

"All this will better help military forces of our two countries to better enhance mutual understanding and friendship," he said.

They discussed US President George W Bush's visit to Beijing in November and plans to increase military educational exchanges.

Mr Rumsfeld has used the visit to highlight what he describes as a lack of transparency in China's military spending.

Military budget concerns

US officials said Mr Rumsfeld was the first foreigner to visit the Strategic Rocket Forces, at Qinghe outside Beijing, and that previous requests to go there had always been denied.

He was given a briefing on the command's structure and training, but without details about missile numbers.

Gen Jing, quoted by US officials, denied that Chinese missiles were targeting any country.

He also appeared to disavow a statement in June by Gen Zhu Chengzhu that China would have to respond with nuclear weapons if targeted by US forces in a crisis over Taiwan.

Earlier Mr Rumsfeld told his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan that China's recent increases in its defence budget were raising suspicions about its intentions.

But Mr Cao said China's priority was economic not military growth, and denied spending was understated.

"It is not necessary or even possible for us to massively increase the defence budget," he said.

China's official military spending this year is $30bn, but the Pentagon said in June that the real figure was $90bn.

China has consistently increased its defence spending since the 1990s, but Chinese officials say the increase is needed to modernise its armed forces and pay better salaries.

China also says its budget is dwarfed by US military spending, which last year totalled $440bn.
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