China: 'World should not fear military rise'

Wen says China is opposed to the militarization of outer space.

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March 16, 2007 08:26
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The world should not fear China's military rise, premier Wen Jiabao said Friday and vowed to improve relations with regional rival Japan while repeating attacks on old foes Taiwan and the Dalai Lama. In a two-hour news conference at the end of China's two-week legislative session, Wen said the nation is opposed to the militarization of outer space despite a recent test of an anti-satellite weapon that prompted international criticism. Wen said the January test that destroyed a defunct Chinese weather satellite was not targeted at any other nation and did not violate any international treaties. "China always advocates for the peaceful utilization of outer space and we are always opposed to an arms race in outer space," Wen said, adding Beijing was repeating its calls for an international convention banning weapons in outer space. "China's position on the peaceful utilization of outer space remains unchanged," he said. Wen also said China's military budget, which was boosted by 17.8 percent this year, was smaller than other developed countries on both an aggregate and per capita basis. He said a planned trip to Japan next month will be an "ice-thawing" journey furthering improving relations between the neighbors and sometimes adversaries. It will follow Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "ice-breaking trip" to China last October, he said. The premier repeated attacks on Taiwanese leaders and the Dalai Lama, both long-term foes Beijing accuses of trying to split the country. "We are strongly opposed to any secessionist activities aimed at achieving Taiwan independence," Wen said of the self-ruled island that Beijing considers part of its territory. "We will never allow anyone to change the history, the reality and the universally recognized legal status of Taiwan - that is Taiwan has been an inalienable part of Chinese territory since ancient times," he said. The two sides split during civil war in 1949. China has threatened war if Taiwan makes its de facto independence permanent. But he said China was willing to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama as long as he gives up efforts for Tibetan independence. The mainland claims to have ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand. "As long as the Dalai Lama recognizes that Tibet is an inalienable part of Chinese territory... and as long as the Dalai Lama gives up his efforts to split the county, we will be in a position and we are willing to have consultations and dialogue," Wen said. He added: "The door is always open." China has accused the Dalai Lama of waging a clandestine campaign for formal independence, though he says he wants only greater autonomy in hopes of preserving Tibet's Buddhist culture.


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