BEIJING, Jan. 10, 2011 — The meetings between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chinese officials here today were termed “candid and productive” by both U.S. and Chinese officials.
“We are on the way to fulfilling the mandate that our two presidents have given us: to strengthen the military-to-military relationship, which they both consider an underdeveloped part of the overall U.S.-China relationship,” Gates said.
The secretary said he came away from the meetings “optimistic and confident” that Chinese military leaders are committed to improved contacts between the two nations.
The Chinese have been investing in new technologies, and that has raised concern outside the nation. China is working on a new, fifth-generation stealth fighter, has demonstrated an anti-satellite capability and says it has an anti-ship ballistic missile capability.
Gen. Liang Guanglie, China’s minister of national defense, said that with the growth in economic power and comprehensive national power of China, the military development has made some progress. “This is for the protection of the security interests of China,” he said. “To do this, we have developed indigenously some weapon systems.”
U.S. officials concede that China must defend itself, but maintain that the Chinese should be clear about their strategy and doctrine. “That would go a long way toward dispelling concerns about the Chinese military,” a senior U.S. official said.
Liang said the gap between the Chinese military and more advanced countries “is at least two or three decades.” He insisted the military improvements aren’t targeting any one nation. U.S. officials would not comment on this claim.
In their meeting today, Gates and Liang also talked about the situation on the Korean peninsula. The secretary assured the Chinese that American exercises off the Korean coast are not in any way directed at the Chinese, but rather are driven by growing concern over North Korea.”
“Our efforts have been directed at deterring further provocations on the part of North Korea,” Gates said. The secretary thanked the Chinese for their help in easing tensions after the North Korean artillery strike on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November.
“This is an area where the U.S. and China have worked together cooperatively, and we acknowledge and appreciate China’s constructive actions late last fall in terms of trying to tamp down tensions on the peninsula,” the secretary said. “That is, obviously, a major concern of ours and a major topic of discussion in my visit to Beijing.”
The secretary added that he wants military-to-military contacts between the United States and China to continue even when the nations disagree. Liang seemed to agree in general, but when a reporter at a news conference asked about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan -– the reason China suspended contacts last year -– some reluctance became apparent.
“Your question touches upon U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and on that our position has been clear and consistent: We are against it, because the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan seriously damaged China’s core interests,” Liang said through an interpreter. “We do not want to see that happen again. Neither do we want the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan [to] again and further disrupt the development of our military-to-military relationship.”
Still, he added, the meetings laid down a “very solid foundation for the settlement of our differences and the future progress of our [military-to-military] relations.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)