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Rice Urges Chinese Transparency on Defense Plans

U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Australia, has called on China to be more transparent about its military buildup. She discussed China's emergence as a regional power with Australian officials in Sydney, a prelude to security talks with Australia and Japan on Saturday.

The Secretary of State says the United States wants China to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system. She says to do so Beijing needs to be more transparent about it military buildup, which U.S. officials say includes a 14 percent increase in defense spending this year.

The Secretary made the comments during a day of talks with Australian leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. They focused on regional issues, including the rise of China in the global economy and political scene.

At a news briefing with Downer, Rice said Bush administration policy is to encourage China, as it grows in importance and influence, to be more open toward its own people and the international system.

"We've said that we have concerns about the Chinese military buildup. We've told the Chinese that they need to be transparent about what their military buildup means," she said. " I don't know, I used to follow Soviet defense statistics, and so I'm always a little bit uncertain about the statistics on these things. But I heard that there's going to be a 14 percent increase in the Chinese defense budget. That's a lot. And China should undertake to be transparent about what that means."

The Secretary also said there should be more openness in the Chinese economy, citing problems with China's respect for intellectual property rights, the lack of a market-based and flexible Chinese currency, and government control of many enterprises.

China's rise is expected to be a major focus of trilateral security talks here Saturday involving Secretary Rice, Foreign Minister Downer, and their Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso.

But U.S. officials say the meeting does not imply hostile intentions toward China by any of the parties. Australia's Downer told reporters he does not see a U.S.-led "containment strategy" toward Beijing.

"I think we feel comfortable with where the United States is at in terms of its relationship with China," he said. " Our relationship has its own dynamics, we have our own issues but we have a very good and constructive relationship with China. We have (Chinese) President Wen (Jiabao) coming here very soon, in the next couple of weeks and I'm sure that visit will be successful."

Japan's Foreign Minister Aso, in a Wall Street Journal commentary earlier this week, also called on Beijing to fully disclose its defense spending, which he said remains "opaque" even though by China's own admission it has tripled over the past decade.

The Japanese official said China is not emerging as a world power but rather reclaiming its historical prominence. He said he hopes China realizes there is no longer a place for an empire, and that the guiding principles in today's world are interdependence and the harmony it can build.