China reassures US on military, energy issues

Beijing, January 3:

China used a visit by American lawmakers to reassure the United States that it is not a rival on issues such as military spending or energy consumption, state media said on Wednesday.

Chinese legislators meeting with the US delegation Tuesday also warned the United States not to send the ‘wrong signals’ to independence-minded politicians on Taiwan, the China Daily reported.

“China’s defense expenditures as a proportion of its gross domestic product is low compared with some other countries,” the report said, citing a statement issued by China’s legislature after the talks. “China has no intention nor ability to conduct an arms race with other countries, and it does not pose a threat to the security of other countries,” the statement said.

China’s defense spending in 2005 equaled 1.35 per cent of its gross domestic product, the government said in a defense policy paper issued last week. The policy paper also said Chinese defense expenditures in 2005 were equivalent to 6.2 per cent of US spending. The US delegation, the first of its kind since last year’s mid-term elections, was a nine-member team from the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives headed by Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.

The Chinese officials also briefed the guests on China’s energy strategy, saying “China is a big consumer and a producer and both the US and China are facing similar challenges and share common interests,” the statement said.

Amid the generally conciliatory tone, the Chinese officials expressed their hopes that the United States would “strictly” abide by promises on Taiwan, and not send wrong messages to the island.

According to China’s interpretation of past diplomatic exchanges with the United States, the US government has promised to gradually phase out its weapon sales to Taiwan.

China and Taiwan have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory, awaiting reunification.