US defence chief wants China visit to end ‘misunderstandings’

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BEIJING - Enhanced strategic dialogue between China and the US would encourage a more sustainable military relationship, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday en route to Beijing.

During a three-day visit, Gates is scheduled to meet with senior officials including President Hu Jintao to talk about “strategies and policies and outlooks”, the US Department of Defence said.

“I believe that kind of a dialogue contributes, not only to greater understanding, but contributes to avoiding miscalculations and misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Gates said.

The military relationship between the two powers has always ebbed and flowed along with political relations.

The US is hoping to restart joint military exercises which were cut off last year after China objected to US sales of arms to Taiwan.

Greater transparency between the two nations, underpinned by improved strategic dialogue, is also an aim of the visit, Gates said.

There are concerns that China is hiding the extent of its military capabilities. Some believe real defence spending could be double Beijing’s official 2010 figure of $76.3 billion.

In turn, recent US moves to consolidate relationships with other Asian countries have worried China’s leadership due to its ongoing territorial disputes in the region.

However, both sides maintain that Gates’ trip and Hu’s upcoming state visit to Washington will strengthen the relationship.

“It is in the best interests of China, the US and the world for us to continue to work together,” Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday, the China Daily reported.

Gates is also expected to push for greater cooperation in dealing with North Korean aggression on the Korean peninsula. He will then travel on to Japan and South Korea.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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