Talks clear way to resume ties with US military

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am

Chinese and American officials held talks yesterday to pave the way for the formal resumption of military ties, but analysts warned that tensions still exist.

Xinhua said both parties agreed to conduct dialogue and exchanges at an unspecified time in the future, including an annual meeting on a maritime military safety and consultation system.

It said Qian Lihua , the director of the National Defence Ministry's Foreign Affairs Office, held talks with Michael Schiffer, the United States' deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia.

Qian highlighted the importance of military ties to the bilateral relationship, adding that they had the opportunity to develop but also faced problems, Xinhua reported.

With Sino-US military ties stuck in a rut since July, when the US held joint military drills with South Korea in the Yellow Sea that Beijing said amounted to war games on the doorstep of its 'political and economic heartland', Xinhua said Qian told his US counterpart about Beijing's stance on the sensitive issue.

He also expressed Beijing's concern over US interference in China's territorial disputes with its neighbours in the South China Sea.

'The problems need to be solved urgently,' Qian was quoted as saying. 'Safeguarding the stability of China-US military relations should be a weighty responsibility to be shouldered by both sides.'

He said both sides should further maintain exchanges and dialogue to jointly promote the health and stable development of military relations.

Xinhua said Schiffer had agreed that military ties should be further promoted as a part of the positive, co-operative and comprehensive relationship between the two nations.

'The US military hopes to work with the Chinese side to establish a stable and reliable framework for bilateral relations,' it quoted Schiffer as saying, adding that uninterrupted dialogue and exchange helped avoid misunderstanding.

In his two-day trip to Beijing which began on Monday, Schiffer and his entourage also met officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies.

Beijing suspended military ties with Washington to protest against the Obama administration's decision to sell arms to Taiwan earlier this year. But Premier Wen Jiabao confirmed in New York last week that Beijing had invited Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates to visit this year.

Military analyst Antony Wong Dong, the president of the Macau-based International Military Association, said yesterday's meeting had paved the way for Gates' trip.

'Both sides also sent a message to the world that their military disputes had come to a conclusion since yesterday because they are all keen to shift more focus to develop their complicated and interdependent economic issues,' Wong said.

Shi Yinhong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said he was not optimistic about the development of Sino-US military ties because the US was wary of China's growing military clout.

'Actually, both China and the US have never changed stands on the disputed South China Sea,' Shi said. 'So far, the two countries' strategic wrangles have calmed down, but there are still many potential conflicts, including the South China Sea disputes.'