China, U.S. eye restoring comprehensive military ties

11:37, 25 June 2009
World
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Defense officials...

China and the United States are looking at restoring comprehensive military relations after an 18-month hiatus in their defense talks, according to Xinhua.

    Defense officials from China and the United States concluded Wednesday the 10th annual round of defense consultations, the first and highest-level defense dialogue since the Obama administration took office.

    "The development of Sino-U.S. military ties has not been very smooth and still faces some obstacles," said Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in a meeting with U.S. Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy Wednesday afternoon.

    The obstacles included U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.

    "We hope the United States would take substantial measures to remove the barriers that hinder our military relations," said Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People`s Liberation Army.

    "The development of bilateral defense relations still falls behind that of bilateral relations," Liang noted, stressing that the two sides should view and promote military ties from a strategic, long-term perspective.

    "China wants to develop its military relations with the United States based on the principles of mutual respect, trust, reciprocity and mutual benefit," Ma told a press conference after the talks.

    He said China also proposed to construct a pattern for military exchange and cooperation with the United States with features of "reciprocity" and "mutual benefit."

    Sino-U.S. defense consultations were suspended after the outgoing Bush administration announced a 6.5-billion-U.S.-dollar arms package for Taiwan last year. The next round of annual talks would ordinarily have been held in December.

    High-level military talks resumed in February, when David Sedney, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, visited Beijing.

    Flournoy said the Obama administration wanted to establish a new framework for U.S.- China military relations, which would translate common interests into concrete actions and expand areas of security cooperation.

    "It has been a very constructive talk," said Flournoy, who added that a continuous dialogue would lead to a much more sustained and cooperative relationship between the United States and China over time.

    According to Ma, the two sides, during the talks, touched on the issues of Taiwan, the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, anti-terrorism efforts, the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue, the Iran nuclear issue and nuclear disarmament.

    A focus of China-U.S. ties was the Taiwan issue and U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, Ma said, noting that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were the biggest factor undermining bilateral military ties.

    Flournoy said that in terms of U.S policy toward Taiwan, "there is tremendous consistency over time," and the new administration reaffirmed the commitment to the one-China policy and the three Chinese-U.S. joint communiques.

    China also reiterated its opposition to U.S. planes and ships entering China`s exclusive economic zone, according to a press release from the Chinese defense ministry. However, it also expressed willingness to maintain consultation with the U.S. side on related issues.

    "We hope both sides could make joint efforts to avoid any air-sea accidents that might affect bilateral relations," Ma added.

    Flournoy said the two countries had a strong desire to reduce the number of unwanted incidents. "When they do occur, we will resolve them as carefully as possible."

    The two sides also agreed to hold special consultations in Beijing later this year to address the issue of military security at sea.

    For the Korean nuclear issue, the two sides agreed it was a serious concern for the relevant nations.

    "For the security of the northeast Asian region, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula is not only a serious concern for the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan, but also for China," Ma said.

    He insisted that the issue should be addressed by diplomatic means and through consultation and dialogue.

    Flournoy said the United States would work with other parties concerned to get the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea back to the talks about denuclearization.

    Both sides also confirmed that the two defense ministries would conduct senior military-to-military visits within this year.

    Ma said the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, Xu Caihou, would visit the United States this fall, while Flournoy hoped that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would visit China at the end of this year.

    This round of talks marked the resumption of deputy-ministerial level defense consultations. The last such meeting was in December 2007.

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