BEIJING — China invited U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates inside its nuclear warfare headquarters in the Beijing suburb of Qinqhe on Wednesday, 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 pre-emptively, Gates told reporters later.
"It was a pretty wide-ranging conversation, pretty open," he said.
Gates said that during the base visit China's commander of nuclear rocket forces, Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, accepted an invitation to visit U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Nebraska.
He spoke atop China's Great Wall, where he paid a brief tourist visit before leaving.
Gates' assignment during the four days was to patch up ties between the Chinese and U.S. militaries. He claimed success Wednesday, saying military leaders he met support broader engagement.
Still, U.S. leaders say they are concerned about China's secrecy as it pursues sophisticated conventional weapons that seemed aimed at confronting the United States.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday that China's test this week of a stealth fighter jet during Gates' visit didn't surprise him because of Beijing's long-held interest in developing "very high-end, very high-tech capabilities."
"The Chinese have every right to develop a military they want," he said. But, "what I just have not been able to crack is the why on some of these capabilities" that "seem to be focused very specifically on the United States."