Beijing delays Gates trip on weapons sale: Report

10:13, June 04, 2010      

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Beijing has turned down a proposed visit by the U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, in what some American officials described as a snub to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, The Reuters reported Thursday.

Beijing has delayed several high-level military exchanges since January, when the Obama administration notified Congress of a plan to sell Taiwan up to US$6.4 billion in arms.

Gates has lately spoken out publicly about his hopes to visit Beijing and to put military-to-military cooperation between the United States and China back on track, reported The Reuters.

Gates arrived in Singapore Thursday to attend a major security conference but Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said a proposed China visit "did not come to be."

A senior U.S. defense official said the Chinese told their American counterparts that it was "not a convenient time" to host Gates.

A spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry told a press briefing Thursday that "we attach importance to military exchanges" but there were no specific arrangements yet.

In Singapore, Gates plans to meet with his South Korean counterpart to convey America’s "full support for the way in which the Korean government has been handling the crisis" with Pyongyang, the senior U.S. defense official said.

The Pentagon has expressed frustration with what U.S. officials see as a Chinese "pattern" of curtailing military contacts in response to policy disputes with Washington.

"He (Gates) just doesn't believe that a relationship of this importance can take place in fits and starts. There needs to be a continuous, high-level engagement between these two powers and it can't be derailed by bumps in the road that will inevitably come up," Morrell said.

"We are very much interested in engaging and we think they need to be more interested in engaging," he added.

U.S defense officials said Beijing and Washington were looking to reschedule Gates's visit for a later date.
Beijing has for years opposed U.S. defense sales to Taiwan.

The island has a standing request to buy 66 new Lockheed Martin Corp-built F-16C/D fighter jets, a request that Obama administration officials have said is under review, The Reuter report said.

By People's Daily Online / Agencies


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