Seattle PI
US, China reopen high-level military contacts

By ROBERT BURNS

Tuesday, January 25, 2000


WASHINGTON -- A senior Chinese general met yesterday with Pentagon officials to reopen high-level military contacts halted by China after U.S. planes mistakenly bombed its embassy in Yugoslavia last spring.

People's Liberation Army Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai made courtesy calls on Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Xiong also met at the State Department with Thomas Pickering, the undersecretary of state, and John Holum, the department's top arms-control official. It was during Pickering's visit to Beijing last October that Chinese officials indicated willingness to discuss resuming military-to-military contacts.

Xiong also was scheduled to meet yesterday with Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. More in-depth discussions with Pentagon officials are scheduled for today and tomorrow.

A former head of military intelligence, Xiong is deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army. He is one of China's most politically influential generals and is known for hard-line views on the United States. He is a member of the ruling Communist Party's committee that sets policy toward Taiwan.

U.S. government exchanges with the PLA are restricted by a provision of the 2000 defense authorization passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton last fall. It prohibits the Pentagon from authorizing any military exchanges involving nuclear operations, joint combat operations, space issues and other activities.

The chief author of that legislation, Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H., asserts that Xiong has knowledge about Chinese government efforts to obtain military technology illegally from U.S. defense companies. In a letter last week to Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, Smith asked Thompson to consider issuing a subpoena for Xiong to testify before the committee this week.

Last week, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Xiong's talks at the Pentagon today and tomorrow would cover a range of issues including strategic assessments of security in the 21st century, geopolitical conditions in the Asia-Pacific and military modernization. Bacon said Xiong also planned to see members of Congress.

The Pentagon hopes this week's talks will clarify prospects for expanding high-level contacts to include visits to Beijing this year by Blair and Defense Secretary William Cohen, who is to meet with Xiong tomorrow. Cohen was forced to cancel a planned visit to Beijing last year when the Kosovo conflict began.

China agreed to send Xiong to Washington after the United States agreed in mid-December to seek $28 million from Congress for the extensive bomb damage to China's embassy in Belgrade.




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