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No Breakthroughs Reported in US-China Military Talks - 2002-12-10

The United States and China have held their highest level military talks since the start of the Bush administration, with a top Pentagon official saying Washington was less than fully satisfied with the outcome, especially on the issue of weapons proliferation. The United States tried but failed to get a commitment from Beijing to press North Korea to abandon its newly revealed nuclear weapons program.

Several hours of talks at the Pentagon appeared to lead to no new breakthroughs but only disagreement over U.S. concerns about China's alleged weapons proliferation, an issue that has prompted Washington to impose trade sanctions on Chinese companies in the past.

Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith briefed reporters after several hours of talks with the deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army, General Xiong Guangkai.

"The continued proliferation by China of nuclear, chemical and missile related materials and technologies remains a problem and we raised questions about China's historical support for North Korea's missile program," he said.

As North Korea's closest ally, China assured the United States it is not providing missile technology to Pyongyang. But the U.S. side says Beijing stopped short of offering concrete steps to get North Korea to abandon its recently revealed nuclear weapons program.

"It is clear that they have more lines of contact into North Korea than we do," he said. "I don't know whether they're going to take concrete steps."

Sino-U.S. relations have had their ups and downs since the Bush administration came into office two years ago, the low point being last year's mid-air collision between a U.S. Naval reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter jet. Relations have improved since then, with U.S. officials crediting China's cooperation in the war on terrorism. But after Monday's talks, Washington complained that recent military to military contacts have been more show than substance.

"We discussed this," he said. "We had asked for suggestions from the Chinese that we hope would improve on the current state of affairs, which we think is less than it should be."

China has not commented on Monday's military discussions and a call to the Chinese embassy here in Washington went unreturned.