China wants deeper ties with US
BEIJING – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and his Chinese counterpart said on Monday stronger military ties were needed to avoid missteps between the world’s two most powerful countries, whose forces have pushed up against each other in Asia.
Gates is in China on a bridge-building trip a week ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States for a January 19 summit with President Barack Obama.
US and Chinese military ties were curtailed for much of last year after Beijing protested against Obama’s proposed sale of $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, the self-ruled island China deems an illegitimate breakaway.
Gates said the lack of ties between the two militaries could magnify risks. US and Chinese defence-related ships have jostled in seas near China in past years, and in 2001 a mid-air collision between a US surveillance plane and a Chinese air force fighter erupted into a diplomatic standoff.
“We are in strong agreement that in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds,” Gates told reporters after talks with Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie.
Liang said they had “agreed that sustained and reliable military-to-military contacts will help reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation”.
Military ties are among the most brittle links between the United States and China, grappling with trade and currency strains and human rights disputes that have unsettled relations between the world’s biggest economy and the emerging number two.
Senior Obama administration officials, including Gates, have also urged Beijing to do more to rein in the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran and to become more candid about the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Liang repeated China’s opposition to US arms sales to Taiwan, adding that Beijing hoped Washington would pay more attention to Chinese concerns.
Gates’s trip is the most visible demonstration that relations have improved. The two defence chiefs agreed to move ahead with a programme of military visits that was agreed in 2009 but curtailed by China over the weapons sales to Taiwan. But distrust remains deep.– Nampa/Reuters