Gates: US not restricting China

08:30, June 03, 2011      

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Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that the United States was not trying to "hold China down" and doubts that Beijing aims to match Washington's military power.

"We are not trying to hold China down. China has been a great power for thousands of years. It is a global power and will be a global power," he said.

Gates was speaking en route to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's most prominent security conference, scheduled for June 3 to 5 in Singapore, where he is scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on the sidelines of the meeting.

Liang is the most senior Chinese official to attend the security conference.

Gates added: "The Chinese have learned a powerful lesson from the Soviet experience, and they do not intend to try and compete with us across the full range of military capabilities."

He was alluding to the ultimately fatal economic burden that the Soviets assumed in trying to keep up with Washington in the Cold War arms race.

Gates said he is very satisfied with the progress of Washington's relationship with Beijing, but sees room for improvement between the two militaries.

"Under those circumstances, there is value in a continuing dialogue by the two sides of just exactly what our concerns are, what our issues are and how we might alleviate the concerns on both sides," he said.

Gates added that Washington will continue to build relationships with its allies in Asia despite potential budget restrictions and that Washington plans to remain a reliable partner in the region.

"I would say, if anything, these pressures put a premium on multilateral responses to problems," he said. "Whether it's humanitarian assistance or disaster relief, we see opportunities with a number of countries out here, including China."

It is Gates' seventh trip to Asia in the past 18 months and his final overseas trip before he retires on June 30. US President Barack Obama has named CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace him.

Gates also said the reshaping of much of Obama's national security team - including the selection of Gates' own successor and the controversial search for a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - was at least a year in the making.

In his first extended comments on the process, Gates said the key consideration was preserving what he called a sense of teamwork among the top national security aides as the administration winds down the US military role in Iraq and fashions a plan for turning over security responsibilities in Afghanistan by 2014.

Obama announced on Monday that he would nominate General Martin Dempsey, who had just taken over on April 11 as army chief of staff. Gates said he would not discuss publicly his own recommendation to Obama for the joint chiefs selection.

Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said Gates is likely to make full use of his last overseas visit as defense secretary to meet Chinese military leaders and give another push to military ties between Washington and Beijing.

"Gates, unlike his predecessor, has always been positive on improving military ties with China," Li said.

Although he might talk about a Chinese military "buildup" and "threats", the underlying theme of his speech and his meeting with Liang will be positive, Li added.

As for the change of US defense leaders, Li said it is unlikely to impact the improving ties between the two militaries.

"US leaders, including Obama, Hillary Clinton and the new military leaders all know that military ties with Beijing have become more and more important for overall ties," he said.

However, potential disputes still linger on regional hotspots, such as Taiwan, the South China Sea and US exercises in Northeast Asia, said Li.

AP, AFP contributed to this story.

Source: China Daily
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