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China no threat, Chinese general says on U.S. trip

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A top Chinese general rejected growing American concerns about China’s military buildup Wednesday, telling audiences at the National Defense University and the Pentagon that the People’s Liberation Army was no threat.

“The world has no need to worry, let alone fear … China’s growth,” said General Chen Bingde, chief of the PLA general staff, in a rare address to a packed room of U.S. military officers and faculty at the National Defense University.

But the reassurances by Chen during a high-profile visit to the United States were also accompanied by fresh warnings against any future U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which underscored the fragile nature of the relationship.

As members of Congress press for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province, Chen warned that new U.S. weapons sales to the self-ruled island would damage military ties.

“As to how bad the impact will be, it will depend on the nature of the weapons sold to Taiwan,” Chen told a Pentagon media briefing.

With an occasional smile, Chen quoted U.S. presidents including Abraham Lincoln to drive home his points. He turned to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” trying to allay concerns about China.

Military ties are perhaps the weakest link in relations between the world’s two largest economies — which have also been tested in the past year by disputes over trade, currency, North Korea and human rights.

Chen is the highest ranking official to lead a military delegation to the United States since Beijing cut off ties to the United States in 2010 over a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan worth up to $6.4 billion.

Those ties appeared to gain new footing during Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ January trip to Beijing, even though it was overshadowed by a test flight of China’s J-20 stealth fighter that again stoked concerns about its military buildup.

China also plans to develop aircraft carriers, anti-ship ballistic missiles and other advanced systems which have alarmed the Asian powers and the United States, the dominant power in the Pacific. U.S. officials accuse Beijing of designing their weapons system to counter U.S. capabilities.

DECADES BEHIND THE WEST?

Chen played down Chinese military advances on his trip, telling the audience of U.S. military officers and faculty at the National Defense University the People’s Liberation Army lagged at least 20 years behind developed Western nations.

“To be honest, I feel very sad after visiting (the United States), because I think, I feel and I know, how poor our equipments are and how underdeveloped we remain,” Chen said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chen’s host, stressed the importance of renewed dialogue to minimize the risk of misunderstanding.

“What he and I have both talked about is a future that is a peaceful future and a better one for our children and grandchildren. That does not include a conflict between China and the United States,” Mullen told reporters.

But some members of Congress criticized the U.S. military for too openly engaging with Chen and his delegation, particularly his access to U.S. military facilities. Chen will visit Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, home to some high-tech U.S. defenses.

“There can be no doubt that every scrap of information this expert delegation collects will be used against us,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a statement.

“The Chinese military openly regards the United States as an enemy,” she said. “We should not undermine our own security by thinking we can make friends with self-proclaimed adversaries with hospitality and open arms.”

Still, the Chinese and U.S. economies, Chen noted, are inextricably linked. China has the world’s biggest foreign exchange reserve, with about two-thirds estimated to be held in dollars. Jokes about U.S. dependence on China to finance its debt are commonplace in the United States, and Chen appeared to seize the opportunity in Washington.

Talking about fiscal constraints on China’s military, Chen got a long round of laughter from his U.S. audience by joking: “If you can lend us some money, I think that would be easier.”

Provided by NewsDaily

Russia may take action over U.S. missile shield

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Russia says it may take action if Washington and Moscow fail to agree on a joint missile shield

Russia’s deputy defense minister has said action could be taken if the United States deploys its new missile defense system near Russia’s borders.

In a news conference on Friday, deputy defense minister Anatoly Antonov said the Russian military was looking at ways to “protect our nation if Russia is not consulted in talks with NATO.”

“There is not only talk, some serious work is also being done,” Antonov said. “The Defense Ministry should allow for the worst possible scenario.”

His comments come just hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Kazakhstan that the talks were going through a complicated phase.

“So far this matter is proceeding with difficulty, but the [U.S.] Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] has assured us that measures are being taken on her side,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov added that he had met Clinton during an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland on Thursday and had discussed missile defense.

“We agreed that it was necessary to give a political impulse to the work of experts, so that before our two presidents meet in Deauville for the G8 summit it will be possible to set out some results,” Lavrov said.

The United States and Romania announced last week a deal to deploy missile interceptors in Romania as part of its plan to erect a missile shield over Europe.

The move immediately drew criticism from Russia, which fears the scheme may compromise its security by weakening its nuclear missile arsenal.

But U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said Moscow need not worry.

“We have good relations with Russia. We have just ratified the New START treaty, we are working together on various other issues,” she was quoted as saying in media reports last week.

“It is a system that will defend NATO and, if Russia chooses to work with us in a cooperative manner, the system will defend Russia, too.”

Russia agreed to cooperate on NATO’s European missile defense program at a NATO summit in Lisbon last year.


Russia ‘disappointed’ by U.S. failure to provide missile guarantees

Moscow is concerned by the United States’ refusal to provide legally binding guarantees that its European missile defense system will not be directed against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday.

“The Americans are insisting on the importance of launching practical cooperation without any preconditions,” he said, adding that Russia “cannot start cooperation on specific projects without legal guarantees that a future system will not be directed against our security interests.”

Moscow reserves the right to pull out of the new START Treaty, he warned.

“The new START Treaty may become hostage to the U.S. approach,” the official said.

“The qualitative and quantitative buildup of the U.S. missile defense system, which will jeopardize Russia’s strategic nuclear capability, can be regarded as an exceptional event under Article 14 of the said Treaty whereby Russia has the right to withdraw from this agreement,” Ryabkov said.

Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the so-called European missile shield during the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon in November 2010. NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system.

Russia is opposed to the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense systems near its borders, claiming they would be a security threat. NATO and the United States insist that the shield would defend NATO members against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.

Via Rian & Russia

North Korea, Iran trade missile technology

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North Korea and Iran appear to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions, according to a confidential United Nations report obtained by Reuters on Saturday.

The report said that the illicit technology transfers had “trans-shipment through a neighboring third country.” That country was China, several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The report was submitted to the U.N. Security Council by a U.N. Panel of Experts, a group that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after it conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The U.N. sanctions included a ban on trade in nuclear and missile technology with North Korea, as well as an arms embargo. They also banned trade with a number of North Korean firms and called for asset freezes and travel bans on some North Korean individuals.

“Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air,” the report said.

“For the shipment of cargo, like arms and related materiel, whose illicit nature would become apparent on any cursory physical inspection, (North) Korea seems to prefer chartered cargo flights,” it said.

It added that the aircraft tended to fly “from or to air cargo hubs which lack the kind of monitoring and security to which passenger terminals and flights are now subject.”

Several Security Council diplomats said that China was unhappy about the report.

Beijing has prevented the publication of expert panel reports on North Korea and Sudan in the past. Earlier this week, Russia took similar steps to suppress an equally damning expert panel report on Iran.

The report said the possibility of exports of weapons-grade nuclear material from North Korea or nuclear technology to other countries remains a concern and presents “new challenges to international non-proliferation efforts.”

U.S., Israeli and European governments have said that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed in 2007.

In its report, the panel said that North Korea’s uranium enrichment problem, which Pyongyang says is for civilian purposes, is “primarily for military purposes.”

It added that North Korea “should be compelled to abandon its uranium enrichment programme and that all aspects of the programme should be placed under international monitoring.”

The report also said there were concerns about safety at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. It said “safety issues should be discussed an integral part of the denuclearization of (North Korea).”

It added that “reckless decommissioning or dismantlement at Yongbyon could cause an environmental disaster.”