China Says Cheney Wrong

Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 6:33 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China rejected criticism by Vice President Dick Cheney about its military ambitions, saying Tuesday that it is a force for stability in the world.

Cheney, on a swing through Asia last week, said some of Beijing's actions were at odds with its words about its military expansion being peaceful.

He pointed to last month's anti-satellite test in which China fired a missile into a defunct weather satellite, making it just the third nation to use a weapon beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

In China's first response to Cheney's comment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China was opposed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

``China adheres to the road of peaceful development and we are an important force in the maintenance of peace and stability in the world and the region,'' Qin said in a regular news conference. ``Our positive and important role on the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula is clear evidence of that.''

China worked with the United States, Japan and others to broker a deal earlier this month in which North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon last October, agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor by mid-April as a step toward abandoning its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and political incentives.

``Our position on the peaceful use of space has been consistent as has been our opposition to the weaponization of space and the arms race in space,'' Qin said.

``We have also been making efforts to promote the conclusion of a treaty on banning weapons in outer space,'' he said. ``We are willing to work with the U.S. to ... properly handle our differences.''

Cheney said during his visit to Sydney last week that the anti-satellite test ``and China's continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise.''

China's military has grown rapidly along with its economy in recent years, prompting concern in Washington that the balance of military power in the Pacific could start to shift away from the United States.

China says it is strengthening its military to thwart any attempt by Taiwan to push for independence, but insists it is committed to the peaceful development of its armed forces, the world's largest.