China to upgrade forces, whatever U.S. plans

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — China intends to modernize its nuclear and other military forces whether or not the United States follows through with development of a defense against long-range missiles, a Chinese diplomat said Wednesday.

Upgrading China’s forces is a natural development along with growth of the Chinese economy, the official said. They go hand-in-hand, he told reporters at the Chinese Embassy.

China will hold to its pledge under the international test ban treaty not to conduct a nuclear weapons test explosion, he said.

But there are other ways, in the laboratories and using computers, to improve China’s missile arsenal, the official said.

On Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the Bush administration does not intend to approve or condone a buildup of China’s nuclear forces.

Rumsfeld disputed news reports the administration would tacitly accept such a buildup.

"The suggestion that the United States has or is poised to approve of China’s military and nuclear buildup for some reason in exchange for something is simply not the case, notwithstanding what people are reading in the press," Rumsfeld told a Senate appropriations subcommittee.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said China’s forces were slated for expansion and modernization long before the Bush administration came on the scene and began talking about missile defenses.

The primary concern is whether China intends to step up development of medium-range and long-range missiles, the official said. China is far behind in both areas, but it is not barred from developing intermediate-range missiles as the United States and Russia are by treaty, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the United States can do nothing to prevent China from modernizing its strategic forces, but the Bush administration would not sit idly by if it did.

China is thought to have about 20 long-range ballistic missiles and an estimated 100 medium-range missiles.

In saying China will proceed with modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the Chinese official said it was not designed as a threat against any country.

At the same time, he registered his government’s objections to a U.S. anti-missile system, saying it would upset the strategic balance of the last half-century and would touch off a nuclear arms race.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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