Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger pressed the Chinese hard today on the need for strategic cooperation, instructing them for more than an hour about the dangers of the Soviet buildup around the world and promising them access to U.S. weapons.
The Chinese responded with cool friendliness on both counts, promising to "study his points" on the world situation and referring the weapons question to lower-level technical teams for discussion. They made clear, however, that they believe the job of military deterrence is more appropriate for the United States than for a "poor country" like China, according to a high-level U.S. official who attended today's three-hour meeting between Weinberger and Defense Minister Zhang Aiping.
Weinberger is in the second of a five-day visit to China aimed at resuming and increasing the military relationship between the two countries after two years of tensions. U.S. officials would like to help modernize the Chinese Army to offset what they see as a massive Soviet buildup in northeast Asia, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
The Chinese, who want access to U.S. technology in many fields, have welcomed Weinberger politely but cautiously. Zhang emphasized in his welcoming toast Sunday--and by his brief response in today's meeting--that China will not abandon its independent course by allying itself too closely with the United States.
Weinberger assured Zhang that the United States is sincere in its desire to allow China access to more advanced technology than has been permitted in the past. As a result of new regulations categorizing China as "friendly but nonaligned," 32 items in which China expressed an interest more than two years ago will now be made available, Weinberger said.
U.S. officials declined to specify those items, but said some of them are munitions. The defense secretary told Zhang the United States would look with particular favor on defensive weapons, and the new list is thought to include antitank missiles and radar systems.
Weinberger said 11 additional items would be made available if China provides assurances that the technology will not be passed on to third countries, a reference to the Soviet Union and North Korea.
Weinberger spent most of the morning, however, explaining the Reagan administration's view of the world, with emphasis on Soviet activities in Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.
"The Soviet buildup in the Pacific is a threat to both China and Japan," Weinberger said, according to the official's account.
Zhang thanked Weinberger for his "concise briefing. Having listened to your briefing, we will go and study your points."
U.S. officials took heart that Zhang did not mention Taiwan, saying only that points of disagreement would better be left to the foreign ministers. China's foreign minister is expected in Washington later this year.
Zhang also said, according to the U.S. official, that "we all know very well whence come the threats to China and world peace." U.S. officials saw that statement as a partial endorsement of Weinberger's exposition.
After the formal morning session, members of the U.S. delegation met with Chinese officials in working groups to discuss technology transfer and possible future exchanges of military teams to discuss training, logistics, military medicine and other items. U.S. officials included Richard L. Armitage, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, James P. Wade Jr., deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Gen. William R. Richardson, the four-star general who heads the Army's training command.
While those working sessions took place, Weinberger made the obligatory visit to the Great Wall, wearing sneakers for the climb but also his ever present necktie and Ronald Reagan tie clasp. Tuesday he was scheduled to visit a Chinese Army garrison and meet with Premier Zhao Ziyang.