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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK
US resumes limited China contacts
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush
Mr Rumsfeld is on his first major trip abroad as secretary
The United States is to resume limited military contact with China, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said.

He reiterated that it was not appropriate to have military-to-military relations with Beijing during the crisis over the downed US spy plane in April.


Any suggestion that the United States is going to, or ought to, or might turn away from Europe is fundamentally flawed in logic

Donald Rumsfeld,
US Defence Secretary
Speaking in Europe on his first major trip abroad since taking office, Mr Rumsfeld also said that the new US emphasis on China would not detract from its commitment to Europe.

He said the location of the 100,000 servicemen on the continent might change but the overall number would remain the same.

"Yes Asia is growing and is an important part of the world," he said.

"But any suggestion that the United States is going to, or ought to, or might turn away from Europe is fundamentally flawed in logic."

Iraq Patrols to continue

Mr Rumsfeld also said that US pilots flying over Iraq were in increased danger because Baghdad had received foreign help to boost its anti-aircraft systems.

US F15
The US says its pilots are under increasing threat
"We've been very fortunate that we've not had a loss," he said.

"The risk grows to the extent that other nations assist Iraq in strengthening its air defence capability," he added.

Mr Rumsfeld China was the only country he mentioned by name as having helped Baghdad, saying Chinese technicians had upgraded communications in Iraqi defence systems.

Rumsfeld itinerary
Turkey
Ukraine
Macedonia/Kosovo
Greece
Belgium
Finland
Mr Rumsfeld said that improvements in Iraqi air defences increased the risk to pilots, but said there were no plans to stop patrols of the no-fly zone over Iraq.

The commander of US forces in Europe, General Joseph Ralston, who is also Nato's supreme commander, has suggested that the flights should be scaled back over northern Iraq because of the risk of a plane being shot down.

US commanders are less keen about easing up flights over a similar no-fly zone in southern Iraq, because of the short warning time if Iraq were to attack Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

Balkan visit

The Pentagon, on orders from President Bush, is conducting a study on weapons and security policy for the 21st century, which is likely to put new emphasis on Asia, from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf.

US soldier with Yugoslav policeman in the Presevo valley buffer zone
US forces have played a leading role in Balkan peacekeeping
Within Europe, officials have suggested that the large numbers of US ground troops stationed in Germany might not be best placed to meet the challenges in the region.

There have also been numerous reports suggesting that the Bush administration might withdraw some of the US's peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.

On Tuesday Mr Rumsfeld is due to visit the peacekeepers in Kosovo and their support troops in neighbouring Macedonia.

His week-long trip to Europe takes him from Turkey to Ukraine for an overnight visit, then on to Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, Belgium and Finland.

He will attend a regular meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus
"America is not hugely enthusiastic about the new EU defence effort"

Key stories:

Analysis

Spy plane row

AUDIO VIDEO

INTERACTIVE GUIDE

TALKING POINT
See also:

29 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 Jun 01 | Europe
25 May 01 | Americas
11 Apr 01 | Europe
15 Mar 01 | Europe
03 Feb 01 | Americas
29 Dec 00 | Americas
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