China urges US to halt Taiwan arms sales

Monday, January 10, 2011

BEIJING - Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie Monday urged the US to halt its arms sales to Taiwan, saying the US arming of the island had “jeopardised China’s core interests”.

“We do not want to see such things happening again,” Liang told reporters when asked about the latest arms sales at a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

“We do not want US weapons sales to Taiwan to further damage the relationship between China and the US and (between) the two nations’ armed forces,” Liang said following talks with Gates.

Despite the divergence over Taiwan, Gates and Liang earlier Monday agreed that they should set aside military differences and seek a long-term dialogue.

“There are many areas where we have mutual interests and can work together,” Gates said between two sessions of talks with Liang.

“And those areas where we have disagreements, those disagreements are best dealt with through constant dialogue and discussion with one another and transparency, and you can count on us to do our part,” Gates said.

Liang said during the talks that China-US military relations were “faced with new opportunities for development together with some difficulties and challenges”.

He said the two nations “need to work together to expand our shared interests to reduce our differences … for us to ensure that military relations between our two nations would progress along a sound and steady track”.

Indeed, the two countries took advantage of Gates’ visit to announce plans for a series of working groups that will seek ways to improve cooperation between the two countries’ militaries.

Topics to be covered in those groups include ways to work together on maritime rescues, counterterrorism, anti-piracy efforts disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

“In order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds,” said Gates.

Gates further noted that China had agreed to consider starting talks on strategic security issues ranging from nuclear issues to missile defence and cyber security.

Liang hosted an official welcoming ceremony before the talks, which China had postponed since the US agreed a $6.4-billion arms package for Taiwan in January 2009.

Vice President Xi Jinping told Gates later Monday that stable bilateral relations were important for both nations and the world, state television reported.

“We need to trust each other, face international problems together and share opportunities for development,” Xi was quoted as saying.

The US is aiming to restart joint military exercises that China suspended after objecting to the arms sales to Taiwan.

China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949, but Liang Monday reiterated his government’s claim that the island remains “an inalienable part of China”.

Before Gates’ trip, some US officials said they were concerned that China is hiding the extent of its military capabilities. Some analysts said they believe real defence spending could be double Beijing’s official 2010 figure of $76.3 billion.

China is also further along in the development of a stealth aircraft than the US had predicted, and Gates said before Monday’s talks that he was concerned about the country’s development of anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles.

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

Gates was also expected to push China for greater cooperation in dealing with North Korean aggression.

He was scheduled to travel to Japan and South Korea after his talks in Beijing.

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