US defence chief William Perry offered a new olive branch to China yesterday - while calling on Beijing to do more to repair the nations' battered relationship. In a major effort to prop up the United States' 'comprehensive engagement' policy with China in the face of growing congressional criticism, the Defence Secretary warned that trying to contain Beijing risked sending its weapons proliferation and military build-up out of control. But, in a speech delivered in Seattle, Mr Perry also sounded a tough note, telling Beijing's leaders: 'This administration is committed to a policy of engagement - but not engagement at any price.' Assistant Defence Secretary Joseph Nye is about to depart for Beijing as part of efforts - agreed last week by presidents Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton - to repair the relationship and resume military dialogue. But Mr Perry sent out a plea to China to do more to respond to US concerns - notably cutting back on its weapons transfers to regimes such as Iran. 'The US Government has tried very hard to send China the right signals,' he said. 'Now it is time for China to start sending the right signals.' On another thorny issue, Beijing's continued nuclear testing, Washington had received assurances it would stop by 1996, and 'we look forward to China honouring that pledge'. He also called on Beijing to stop its aggressive behaviour towards Taiwan, saying: 'China has to show that they too want a peaceful resolution of this problem. Conducting missile tests off Taiwan sends the opposing message.' But he said Washington was determined to push ahead with engaging China in a bid to persuade its leaders to adopt a more responsible attitude towards global security issues. It was 'dead wrong', he said, for critics to suggest such an engagement policy 'equals appeasement, or even accommodation'. He said: 'Engagement does not mean that the US blithely acquiesces to policies with which we disagree . . . nor does it mean we ignore China's serious and ongoing human rights violations, or mean we turn our heads when China exports dangerous weapons technology to dangerous regimes.' But Mr Perry added: 'Beijing's policies are unlikely to be changed by hostility, rhetoric and confrontation. 'A China which feels we are trying to encircle it with a containment policy is quite unlikely to provide the co-operation needed to achieve [America's] vital security objectives.' Mr Perry made his remarks before heading off on a visit to Korea and Japan, where he faces a tough time repairing the damage done to the US military's reputation in the eyes of residents increasingly angry at the behaviour of US troops stationed there. His speech was partly aimed at Capitol Hill, where legislators are becoming more concerned at China's military build-up, and are attempting to block federal funds being spent on the US-Sino initiative to co-operate on converting former military sites to civilian industrial use.