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US Calls on China for 'Strategic Reassurance'

Just days before the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a senior State Department official has called on the Beijing government to reassure the United States and other countries of its peaceful and constructive intentions as its military continues to grow and it plays a greater role in world affairs.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg says the United States is eager to continue to work with China to address a variety of global and regional issues, including those where the two countries disagree.  But he told a conference sponsored by the Center for a New American Security that China's "size and importance" create a "risk of competition and rivalry that can thwart" such cooperation. 

Steinberg says what is needed is what he calls "strategic reassurance."

"Strategic reassurance rests on a core, if tacit, bargain.  Just as we and our allies must make clear that we are prepared to welcome China's arrival as a prosperous and successful power, China must reassure the rest of the world that its development and growing global role will not come at the expense of security and well-being of others.  Bolstering that bargain must be a priority in the U.S.-China relationship," Steinberg said.

He notes that the United States and China have recently raised the level of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue process.  He said other aspects of reassurance involve greater transparency about China's military spending and intentions, and actions on both sides to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate.  He said that would include making military exchanges permanent, and not subject to interruption by incidents at sea or U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

He also said China's relationships with rogue regimes and disregard for human rights at home and abroad make other countries concerned about China's intentions.  The deputy secretary of state said transparency and cooperation are particularly important in three areas.

"The risks of mistrust are especially acute in the arena of strategic nuclear weapons, space, and increasingly in the cyber realm.  Achieving mutual reassurance in these areas is challenging, but, as we learned during the Cold War, essential to avoiding potentially catastrophic rivalry and misunderstanding.  Both sides need to devote creating thinking into how we might address these thorny challenges," said Steinberg.

He also noted the potential for competition between the United States and China for natural resources.  He criticized China for trying to monopolize resources in some areas, and called on its leaders to work within the world market system.  

He said the United States is open to China's rise, but China must provide the world with clear reassurance about its intentions.

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