Proliferation Press

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China Diplomacy Update: US Congressional Delegation Touts Chinese Military Transparency, China Reaffirms ‘No First Use’ of Nuclear Arsenal. Meanwhile, Merkel Urges Greater Press Freedoms in China

Posted by K.E. White on August 28, 2007

Summary: Congress tours China, praising the nation’s military transparency and getting briefed on that nation’s nuclear policy. Meanwhile German Chancellor Merkel takes stands up for freedom of the press during her own trip to China.Ike Skelton

A Congressional delegation headed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) is touring Chinese military facilities. The results from the on-going visit, which kicked off in Guam last Friday, seem encouraging.

(Added note: Members of the delegation include Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Randy Forbes (R-VA), John Spratt (D-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

The Guardian reports on the visit:

“Thus far we’ve received very candid answers about the capability of their military, they seem to be hiding nothing in our discussions with them.

“I think it’s beneficial to both China and the United States that there be strong military-to-military exchanges, that lowers possibility of misunderstanding, of lack of understanding of the other national security forces,” he told The Associated Press.

The group of lawmakers has met with several Chinese officials and toured a naval destroyer at a base in Qingdao in northeastern China. On Monday, they were to visit China’s military sciences academy and the No. 2 artillery division, which controls China’s nuclear and conventional missile forces.

They would also hold talks with Wu Bangguo, the head of China’s legislature and the Communist Party’s No. 2 ranking official.

In June, Skelton and the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of intentionally understating what it spends on military programs. Its official defense budget for this year is about $45 billion, but the “real” budget is between $85 billion and $125 billion, Skelton said then.

And reports on China reaffirming their ‘no first use’ nuclear policy:

A senior officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Monday that China is ready to deepen exchanges and cooperation with US armed forces.

Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the PLA’s Second Artillery Force, made the remarks when he met with Ike Skelton, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives.

“China holds a positive attitude toward the development of ties between the two armed forces. My country is willing to make joint efforts with the US side to push forward exchanges and cooperation,” Jing told Skelton and his delegation.

Jing also briefed Skelton on China’s nuclear policy and strategy and the construction and application of nuclear forces.

“China’s policy of ‘No first use of nuclear weapons at any time under any circumstances’ is firm and consistent, and will never be changed,” Jing added.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also touring China:

Angela Merkel

On her second full day in China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel conferred with

opposition journalists. She reminded Beijing that the West would like to see progress on freedom of the press and other human rights issues.

Merkel began Tuesday by meeting with representatives of the Chinese media — including four prominent figures critical of the government in Beijing. The meeting was a signal of Germany’s support for more press freedom in China.

Li Datong, the former publisher of a supplement to the China Youth Daily newspaper, was full of praise for Merkel.

“The meeting shows that the chancellor attaches great significance to democracy and freedom of speech in China,” Li told German news agency DPA.

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