May 4, 2006

China left out of US-hosted anti-terror meet

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. generals did not invite China
to a meeting last week attended by 91 countries and aimed at
boosting cooperation in the U.S.-declared global war on
terrorism, the military said on Thursday.

China borders several hot spots, including Afghanistan and
Pakistan, and is home to ethnic groups whose members have been
detained by the United States as enemy combatants. President
Bush has highlighted the importance of working with China in
the post-September 11 world.

"We intend to deepen our cooperation in addressing threats
to global security -- including the nuclear ambitions of Iran,
the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, the violence unleashed by
terrorists and extremists, and the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction," Bush told President Hu Jintao of China at a
White House welcoming ceremony April 20.

Five days later, more than 230 participants from 91
countries, met in Washington to compare notes on
counterterrorism issues, without China, which the Pentagon
calls a potential strategic competitor.

Among the 91 nations represented in the so-called
Multilateral Planners Conference were traditional U.S. allies
plus such countries as Albania, Tajikistan, Tonga and Djibouti,
a member of the military joint staff said.

China was not invited "because the (U.S.) inter-agency
coordination requirement and timeline didn't allow sufficient
time to extend an invitation," Maj. Almarah Belk of the Air
Force, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said
in an e-mailed reply to a query from Reuters.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to a request
about whether China would have liked to attend.


The April 25-26 meeting was the fourth in a series held
since May 2004 to bring together security planners from around
the world.

A Feb 3. invitation to the session was sent to counterparts
by Lt. Gen. Victor Renuart of the Air Force who, as the joint
chief's director for strategic plans and policies, is the U.S.
military's top strategist.

In the invitation, he described the forum as designed "to
enhance our understanding of global and regional security
environments and foster a common vision for confronting the
challenges in the 21st century."

A copy of the invitation appears on the conference's Web
site, Renuart said he hosted the
conference on behalf of Gen. Peter Pace of the Marine Corps,
chairman of the joint chiefs.

Twenty nations attended the conference for the first time,
including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Yemen, a member of the
joint staff said.

Failing to include China was a mistake, said Kurt Campbell,
a former Asia policy chief at the Pentagon, because fighting
radical Islamic fundamentalism "is one area where we can and
have worked well with China."

"The only U.S. agency that has difficulty clearing a
meeting with China is the office of the secretary of defense,"
added Campbell, now at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington.

James Mulvenon, who runs a 15-member team of China analysts
at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, a group
that consults for U.S. intelligence agencies, said leaving
China out sends a wrong signal to the Chinese, "especially when
we're trying to form a strategic relationship with them."

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert)