China‑U.S. Military Meetings Called ‘Candid, Productive’

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)

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