US calls for lasting military dialogue with China

10:23, October 28, 2009      

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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for lasting dialogue with China's military after years of "on-again, off-again" talks as he welcomed a top Chinese general to the Pentagon Tuesday, according to a Reuter report.

The 75-minute meeting between Gates and Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the People's Liberation Army Central Military Commission, represented the highest-level visit by a Chinese military official since 2006.

It was also a concrete sign of improving relations with China's armed forces after Beijing halted military-to-military dialogue with Washington last year to protest against a US$6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to China’s Taiwan, which remains self-ruled today.

"We need to break the on-again, off-again cycle of our military-to-military relationship," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, summarizing Gates' comments to General Xu.

In the past there were cases "where we make strides, we have a good visit, we agree to cooperate on certain things and then there will be a hiccup that will cause there to be a suspension" in military-to-military relations, Morrell said.

U.S. officials are eager to boost communication with China, given a strengthening of its armed forces, which General Xu assured Gates was geared toward self-defense only, a U.S. defense official told reporters after the talks.

Morrell described the meeting as positive and issued a statement detailing ways in which the two countries' militaries would deepen cooperation. He announced that Gates also accepted Xu's invitation to visit China.

Xu said that U.S.-Chinese military relations have improved since January's inauguration of President Barack Obama, who will visit Beijing in November.

Xu reiterated long-standing "obstacles" to deepening ties with the U.S. military, a U.S. official said. These included tensions over Taiwan as well as many U.S. surveillance activities of waters near China.

But the U.S. defense official, speaking about the talks on the condition he not be named, said the broader U.S. message was that dialogue with China was essential, according to a Reuter report.

"We ought to be able to talk about those policy disagreements in an appropriate setting," the Pentagon source told Reuters. "But the important thing is that we shouldn't let those policy disagreements lead us to take actions that might precipitate a crisis or undermine the entire bilateral relationship."

By People's Daily Online
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