Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Beijing offers Pentagon a hotline

RED TELEPHONE?A US defense official said that China has started a `special dialogue' with the US that proposed direct telephonic contact between the Pentagon and Beijing

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

"They said the report noted that the US is in the process of transformation and realignment in the Asia Pacific area, and that has created uncertainties, and uncertainties begot their concerns," the official said.

The January meeting was meant to move forward the momentum achieved by both sides in their four-year-old series of defense consultative talks and efforts to hammer out a Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA), which would coordinate efforts to improve safety at sea and deal with emergency situations.

The talks have become bogged down over China's insistence that the two sides first settle the political issue of the "root cause" of the problem in essence, their differences over the meaning of the distance from shore of the "exclusive economic zone (EEZ)" claimed as sovereign territory by China, and the US' insistence that this issue be shelved in favor of first solving technical and procedural issues.

The US official also said that plans for a visit to China by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld it still up in the air as a result of scheduling issues, although Rumsfeld still intends to make the trip this year.

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