Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman positive on China ties


The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday said that the risk of war with China was diminishing with the growth of economic ties with the country.

Despite concern over Beijing's rapid and secret military build-up and tension in the Taiwan Strait, General Peter Pace said Washington and Beijing had more shared interests than differences.

"I am optimistic about the future with regard to China. There is much more that the two countries have in common than we have not in common," said Pace, the top military advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"As we continue to build the economic bridges between the two countries and as each country becomes more and more dependent on the other for prosperity, when you do that you lessen significantly any probability of military complications," he said.

A Pentagon report last year estimated China's defense spending at two to three times greater than acknowledged by Beijing, or up to US$90 billion for the year.

Last month Japan identified China as a military threat because of its opaque military spending.

Pace, a Marine Corps officer who took over as chairman of the joint chiefs last year, said it was the military's job to identify capabilities it would need for future events.

"You do not focus on countries but on potential capabilities that you will need, and then build to that," he said.

He said that on North Korea, Washington needed to look at the country's fighting capabilities which included an army of 1.2 million troops and "be prepared to counter that overwhelmingly."

He said a transformation of the US-South Korea alliance was in progress, including reducing US forces in South Korea from 37,000 to 25,000 by 2008 and withdrawing them from the border with North Korea to bases south of Seoul.

He said it was hard to be certain of Pyongyang's intent, but "you need to be prepared if their intent is ill."

"We are fully capable today of defeating any North Korean aggression and we will maintain that capacity," he said.

Pace said that the Pentagon's Quadrennial Report, to be released next week, will assess US military needs over the next 20 years.

"It will be a lookout, as best you can look out, 20 years into the future," he said.

South Korea's move to regain wartime control over its troops, which now would come under the operational control of the commander of US forces here in times of conflict, was welcome, he said.

"This is an opportunity, not a challenge," he said of talks that are scheduled for this year.

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