Army no threat, top general says

08:30, October 28, 2009      

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Development of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to protect China’s economic development and safeguard its territorial integrity, a top Chinese general said here on Monday.

General Xu Caihou, vice-chairman of China’s military commission, insisted that China desires collaborative international relations.

Addressing an audience of foreign policy experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Xu said military ties were generally moving in a “positive direction”.

“We are now predominantly committed to peaceful development and we will not and could not challenge or threaten any other country” and “certainly not the United States,” Xu said.

US officials have expressed alarm about what they see as China’s unprecedented military expansion over the past year. Last week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said better dialogue was needed to avoid “mistakes and miscalculations.”

“I want to make clear that the limited weapons and equipment of China is entirely to meet the minimum requirements for meeting national security,” Xu said.

“We will never seek hegemony, military expansion or an arms race,” he said.

Xu said that China’s double-digit annual increases in defense spending is “quite low” both in real terms and as a percentage of its gross domestic product.

Whereas US defense spending amounts to 4.8 percent of GDP, China’s was only 1.4 percent, he said.

The PLA focused primarily on protecting China’s economic development and defending against separatist and extremist challenges, which he said were clearly on the rise.

“There is still a huge gap between China and the developed world. We are now predominantly committed to peaceful development, and we will not, and could not, challenge or threaten any other country,” he said.

“We believe that we should prudently handle current and future international affairs with a way of thinking that seeks accommodation instead of confrontation, and win-win instead of zero sum games,” he said.

The general is scheduled to meet Gates on Tuesday as part of a US tour that will also take him to US military bases and installations around the country – the latest in on-again, off-again efforts by the two countries to improve often tense relations.

The visit comes ahead of US President Barack Obama’s first trip to China Nov 15 to 18.

Xu said China wanted to invigorate military-to-military relations with the United States, but warned that Beijing regarded recent incursions into its 200-mile economic zone by US naval vessels as an infringement of its sovereignty.

But he said US-China relations had undergone a “smooth transition” since Obama took office in January, moving ties between the two countries to a new stage.

“The China-US relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Exchanges and cooperation between the United States and China are important for world peace and development,” he said.

Source: China Daily
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