Gates visits nuclear base, leaves China
MUTIANYU, China — China invited Defense Secretary Robert Gates inside its nuclear warfare headquarters yesterday, giving him a rare glimpse into control of weapons that could one day be launched at the United States.
Both the United States and China have long-range missiles that could reach the other’s shores. Both nations say they have no intention of using the weapons that way.
“There was a discussion of nuclear strategy and their overall approach to conflict,’’ including China’s policy of not using nuclear weapons preemptively, Gates told reporters afterward.
“It was a pretty wide-ranging conversation, pretty open,’’ Gates said. He spoke atop China’s Great Wall, where he paid a brief tourist visit before leaving China.
Gates’s assignment during his four-day visit was to patch up ties between the two militaries. He claimed success yesterday, saying military leaders he met support broader engagement.
“I think the discussions were very productive and set the stage for taking the military-to-military relationship to the next level,’’ he said.
Still, US leaders say they are concerned about China’s secrecy as it pursues sophisticated conventional weapons that seemed aimed at confronting the United States. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters yesterday that China’s test this week of a stealth fighter jet during Gates’s visit didn’t surprise him because of Beijing’s long-held interest in developing “very high-end, very high-tech capabilities.’’