WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Congress members rebuked China on a range of issues, criticizing Beijing’s test of an anti-satellite weapon, its military buildup, its policy of forced abortion, its support of ruthless regimes, and its repatriation of North Korean refugees in violation of international law.
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, lawmakers repeatedly expressed concern over China’s suitability to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
“If ever there was a time for China to get its house in order, this is it,” said committee chairman Tom Lantos, a Democrat.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican and long a strident critic of China, noted that the United States has played a significant role giving China the wherewithal to become a military power because of China’s robust U.S.-bound exports.
“We have built up a Frankenstein that now threatens us,” Rohrabacher said.
In a similar vein, Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, a Republican, noted that China is planning a 17.8 percent increase in its military budget for the next financial year.
“Who’s the target?” she asked.
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testified that the motives behind China’s military buildup are unclear and are a matter of concern to both United States and China’s neighbors.
“To enhance — rather than detract from — regional security, China should be more open about its military budget, doctrine, and intentions,” said Negroponte, who is the chief adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on China and Asia in general.
Negroponte agreed with China’s critics on the committee that Beijing falls short on a number of issues. But, he said, the overall picture is not uniformly negative.
He said it would not have been possible in the relatively recent past to imagine China supporting U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea — as it did last year after Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon.
“They are capable of shifting,” Negroponte said, referring to the Chinese authorities. “They are changing.”
As another example, he cited China’s relations with other East Asian countries.
“China’s improved relations with its neighbors are a testament to the country’s robust trade ties, but also to China’s increasingly skillful diplomacy. This is a positive development,” he said.
China caused a stir last January when it downed one of its own satellites, using a missile warhead. It triggered fears of a big power competition for supremacy in space, and China’s unwillingness to comment on the action for almost two weeks caused widespread unease.
Negroponte raised the possibility that the Chinese military may have undertaken the action on its own, without the knowledge of the country’s political leadership.
Pressure on Sudan urged
Sitting behind Negroponte were a group of people wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: “Genocide Olympics.”
This was a reference to the support China has shown for the Sudanese government, despite Khartoum’s role in the violence in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. The Bush administration has characterized the suffering there as genocide.
Several committee members also criticized China’s support for Sudan. Negroponte agreed that Beijing “is seen as Khartoum’s diplomatic patron and benefactor.”
But he also said the United States has had a “measure of success” in sensitizing the Chinese leadership to the need to respond to the human suffering in Darfur.
Amnesty International made public on Tuesday a letter signed by 96 senators to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging him to increase the pressure on Sudan.
Specifically, the letter calls on Hu to reconsider his offer to Sudan of an interest-free loan to build a presidential palace in Khartoum.
“We believe that extending such a loan would clearly send the wrong message to Khartoum,” the letter said.
It urged Hu to impress on President Omar al-Bashir the need to halt Sudanese military operations in Darfur and to withdraw Sudanese troops from the area.