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US-China resume high-level defence dialogue

January 10, 2011 10:56 IST

After a year-long hiatus, the US and China resumed high-level defence talks to improve relations in the field and iron out differences over each other's strategic perceptions in the regional and global arena.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie began their talks as the two countries try to improve bilateral military ties and discuss ways to ease US concerns about China's military modernisation.

Welcoming Gates at the headquarters of China's Central Military Commission, Liang lauded his "tremendous efforts" in implementing the consensus reached by the two countries and in promoting dialogue and exchanges between the two militaries.

"At present military to military relations between our two countries are faced with new opportunities for development together with some difficulties and challenges and we need to work together to expand our shared interests to reduce our differences...for us to ensure that military relations between our two nations would progress along a sound and steady track," he said at the beginning of the talks.

Gates recalled his first visit to China 30 years ago as a junior official. "But I have always believed in whatever role I came here, that cooperation and collaboration and dialogue between the United States and China on security issues was in the mutual security interest of both countries.

"Our two Presidents, President Hu and President Obama, clearly believe that a normal military to military relationship is important and I will do everything in my power to ensure that we carry out their objective," he said.

"There are many areas where we have mutual interests and can work together. And those areas where we have disagreements, those disagreements are best dealt with through constant dialogue and discussion with one another and transparency. And you can count on us to do our part," he said.

Gate's visit was also seen as preparatory visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington from Jan 18 to 21.

This is Gates' second China tour since he assumed office in December 2006.

His visit last year was postponed after the Pentagon's decision to sell a nearly 6.4-billion-US-dollar arms package to Taiwan in January 2010. Sinc then, this is the first high-level dialogue between the two militaries.

General Liang said Gates is the third US Secretary of Defence to have paid two visits to China during their tenure since establishment of diplomatic relations between the twocountries. In the next three days, Gates would meet Chinese President and Chairman of China's Central Military Commission Hu Jintao, Vice President and vice chairman of the commission Xi Jinping, vice chairman of the commission Xu Caihou and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Gates will also visit the command of the Second Artillery Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's core force of strategic deterrence, state run Xinhuareported. Ahead of his visit, Gates had yesterday said that the US will counter Chinese arms buildup by stepping up investments in a range of weapons, jet fighters and technology. The Chinese development of its first radar-evading fighter jet, as well as an antiship ballistic missile that could hit American aircraft carriers, had persuaded him to make improvements in American weaponry a priority, Gates said on the eve of his visit to Beijing. "They clearly have potential to put some of our capabilities at risk, and we have to pay attention to them, we have to respond appropriately with our own programmes," Gates was quoted as saying by New York Times.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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