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Home The News News Robert Gates urges deeper military ties with China

Robert Gates urges deeper military ties with China

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for deeper military ties with Beijing, telling a top Chinese general on Tuesday that it was time to end a pattern of “on-again, off-again” relations.

In a meeting with General Xu Caihou (徐才厚), China’s second-ranking officer, Gates stressed the need to preserve a lasting dialogue between the US and Chinese militaries regardless of disputes or policy differences, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

“There is a need to break the on-again, off-again cycle of our military-to-military relationship,” said Morrell, briefing reporters on the meeting.

The talks marked the highest-level visit by the Chinese military since 2006. Xu’s weeklong visit is the latest in a long effort to improve US-Chinese military ties. It also comes ahead of US President Barack Obama’s first official trip to China from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18.

Xu was open to more military cooperation but cited obstacles, such as US military support for Taiwan and the presence of US surveillance ships in waters that Beijing considers its economic exclusion zone, said a US defense official, who asked not to be named.

Gates portrayed the military dialogue as a crucial way of airing differences over maritime law or other issues, the official said.

“We ought to be able to talk about those policy disagreements in an appropriate setting, but the important thing is we shouldn’t let those policy disagreements lead us to take actions that might precipitate a crisis or undermine the entire bilateral relationship,” the official said.

Xu supported more military contacts, Morrell said, inviting Gates to visit China next year, along with the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the new head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard.

The pair agreed “to improve military maritime operational and tactical safety” when the two armed forces operate near each other, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The talks on maritime operations were set for December. Such discussions appeared aimed at avoiding a repeat of standoffs earlier this year that saw Chinese vessels confront US surveillance ships.

Source: Taipei Times 2009/10/29

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