US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he does not see China as a strategic adversary of the United States despite its rapid military modernization.
China's recent announcement of a nearly 18 percent increase in military spending this year to 45 billion dollars "doesn't say much at all about China's intentions," Gates said.
|US Defense Secretary Robert Gates|
"I do not see China, at this point, as a strategic adversary of the United States," he said. "It's a partner in some respects. It's a competitor in other respects, and so we are simply watching to see what they're doing."
The secretary's mild reaction stood in contrast with the White House's expressions of concern over China's announcement of its 2007 budget, and criticism of its military buildup by Vice President Dick Cheney.
On a trip to Australia last month, Cheney said a recent Chinese anti-satellite test and the military buildup were "not consistent with China's stated goal of a 'peaceful rise'."
Gates said China clearly is making a significant investment in its military forces and he guessed that the budget announced by Beijing "does not represent their entire military budget."
"I think that greater transparency would help, from the standpoint of the Chinese, in terms of both what they're doing and what their strategies are, their intent in modernizing these forces, greater openness about the purposes," he said.
"I think it's very important for us to engage the Chinese on all facets of our relationship as a way of building mutual confidence," he said.
General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US military considers military capabilities that countries are developing, regardless of their intent.
"We assure ourselves that we can deal with that capacity and that we have an overmatching capacity for that, and where we don't, that we ask in the budget for the funding to be able to address that gap if it exists," he said.