Rumsfeld Says U.S. Presence in Asia Is Vital

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Rumsfeld Says U.S. Presence in Asia Is Vital

Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Byline: Bill Gertz

The United States needs to keep a strong military presence in Asia to deter any future threats from China, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

"I never believed that weakness was your first choice," he said during an interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times in his office suite at the Pentagon. "I have always felt that weakness is provocative, that it kind of invites people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't think about doing.

"To those who would argue that the United States should be something other than strong, and capable of contributing to the peace and stability in the world, I would argue that history says the contrary," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said communist China is facing an uncertain future as it tries to balance economic reform with its political dictatorship.

"My view of China is that its future is not written, and it is being written," he said.

The defense secretary also revealed some of the internal discussions under way regarding the Pentagon's new military strategy for Asia, which is being drawn up by Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon's top strategic planner.

He said plans to shift the focus toward preparing for military operations in Asia do not diminish the importance of other regions, like Europe or the Persian Gulf.

The new strategy will seek to recognize that "Asia is different from Europe in terms of distances, in terms of the kind of countries that are there, and the nature of the political and economic systems," he said.

To deal with future military challenges in Asia, the Pentagon needs different capabilities "in the first instance, for the purpose of deterring, and in the second instance, for the purpose of prevailing" in a conflict, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Defense officials said the strategy for Asia will involve moving more naval and air forces closer to the continent to be ready to deal with conflicts in Taiwan or North Korea.

The strategy also is likely to call for fewer land forces because of the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean and the difficulty of rapidly moving heavy armored divisions long distances.

The overall strategy will involve a force structure to meet short-term threats, like Iraq or North Korea, and to meet mid- and longer-term problems that require developing military capabilities, he said.

Regarding the buildup of China's missile forces, Mr. Rumsfeld said it was "not surprising" as missiles are becoming a weapon of choice for many nations.

China has decided its missile force, which includes weapons of various ranges, is "important for their view of themselves to be the factor in the region, and they are making significant investments in not just in immediate capabilities, but they're making significant investment in future capabilities."

In addition to missiles, the Chinese are investing in information warfare technologies and "intelligence activities," he said.

"They're looking at things that are not being looked at by a lot of other countries in the world," Mr. Rumsfeld said, without elaborating.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the combination of an outward-looking Chinese economy moving toward capitalism and a communist dictatorship bent on self-preservation is a formula for instability.

Considered the Bush administration's hard-liner on China, Mr. Rumsfeld said he has no code words or doctrine to describe his outlook, other than what he termed "old-fashioned" realism.

The reality of China today, he said, is that it is reaching out to the world economically at the same time it is increasing its defense budget by "double-digit" percentages annually.

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