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Rumsfeld in Beijing, kicking off China visit
Updated: 2005-10-18 14:02

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived here Tuesday afternoon, kicking off his three-day China visit at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld smiles as he leaves a conference in Key Biscayne, Florida October 12, 2005. Rumsfeld arrived in Beijing Tuesday for Beijing a three-day visit. [Reuters]
This is Rumsfeld's first visit to China as Defense Secretary since his accession to the post in January 2001, and the second arrival of US Defense Secretary since 2000. It is aimed at stepping up the process of improving military ties from the low in 2001 following a collision between a US EP-3 surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

"China is an important country in the region; it's a country that's increasingly important in the world," Rumsfeld told reporters aboard his plane en route from Washington to Beijing.

During his stay, Rumsfeld is expected to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and hold talks with Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan.

Rumsfeld said he looked forward to his Beijing meetings to learn more about Chinese leaders' vision of the future, particularly with regard to their military modernization and their willingness to share information.

Both sides will discuss issues concerning China-US relations, including the Taiwan question and Sino-US military cooperation and other bilateral and multilateral issues of common concern.

Analysts believed Rumsfeld's visit will be conducive to the further improvement of the ties between the two countries and two armies.

But senior US defense officials said last week they did not expect any major breakthroughs during the visit, but welcomed a serious high-level dialogue with China.

One senior defense official said Rumsfeld's visit would likely be a "non-euphoric encounter."

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waves as he walks into a hotel in Beijing October 18, 2005. [Reuters]
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waves as he walks into a hotel in Beijing October 18, 2005. [Reuters]
Rumsfeld's discussions will also prepare the ground for a scheduled visit to China by President George W. Bush in late November.

After a US request, the Chinese agreed to allow Rumsfeld to visit the Beijing headquarters of China's strategic rocket forces, something no American defense secretary has done before, officials said.

But the Chinese turned down a request to visit Western Hills, the defense ministry's command center in Beijing, they said.

The United States has pressed Beijing to be more open about its military activities to reduce the risks of miscalculation. It has proposed establishing a telephone hotline between the US and Chinese defense establishments, but the idea has not been embraced by Beijing.

An effort to work out rules to avert potential incidents at sea is only now getting underway, more than four years after the EP-3 incident, officials said.

Besides military ties, Rumsfeld also will discuss North Korea with his Chinese hosts, emphasizing US insistence on the verification of Pyongyang's pledge to abandon its nuclear program, the officials said.

Beijing and Washington have been working closely to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

After China, Rumsfeld will also visit South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania in the week-long trip.

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