After more than a year's hiatus, the Bush administration is
seriously weighing a resumption of high-level military talks with
China - including a strategic dialogue on new priorities and
concerns arising from the war on terror.
A new round of military consultations - the first since late 2000
- could be agreed upon as early as President Bush's visit to China
this week, defense officials say. Still, wariness of China remains
strong in the Pentagon, which, under Bush, has severely restricted
US-China military-to-military ties.
The debate over military relations reflects a larger strategic
quandary posed by China, which Washington has embraced as a partner
in the war on terrorism even as US officials continue to criticize
Beijing as a stubborn weapons proliferator and potential long-term
On one hand, the anti-terror campaign offers new opportunities
for US-China cooperation. Washington has praised China's
intelligence sharing and diplomatic backing for the war, and plans
to station an FBI officer in Beijing. It also values China's help in
easing tensions between Pakistan and India, as well as in
restraining North Korea.
Obstacles to detente
Meanwhile, however, China continues to thwart US goals by
spreading arms technology to regimes that sponsor terrorists.
According to the CIA, China remains a key source of missile related
technology for several countries (including Pakistan and Iran) in
violation of Beijing's November 2000 pledge not to assist countries
seeking to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
For its part, Beijing shares an interest in reviving military
ties and broadly improving Sino-US relations. Yet it also has
concerns about the post-Sept. 11 posture of the United States.
Beijing has watched with alarm, for example, the expansion of the US
troops around Central and South Asia.
Beijing is also suspicious that the United States' revival of
military ties with India is directed at curbing China's influence in
the region. This month, Washington agreed to sell India military
hardware and to hold joint exercises, Jane's Defence Weekly
"It's a kind of gritting of teeth," says Bates Gill, head of
Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution here.
China has muted its public statements so as not to appear opposed to
the war on terror, he says. "Given the outrageous nature of Sept. 11
and US support [for the war] China is not going to stand in the way
So far, US military ties with China have been severely curtailed
under President Bush, who has boosted weapons sales and strengthened
military links to Taiwan while dubbing Beijing a "strategic
competitor" - in contrast to the "strategic partner" envisioned by
his predecessor. …