Tue, Feb 01, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Washington hopes for 'real progress' in China defense talks

AP AND AFP , BEIJING

US and Chinese officials meeting yesterday said they hoped for better military relations and a peaceful settlement to disputes over the future of Taiwan.

Washington hopes for "real progress" on a wide range of military issues, US Deputy UnderSecretary of Defense for the Asia-Pacific Richard Lawless told his Chinese counterpart Major General Zhang Bangdong (張邦東) before they began two days of closed door talks.

"This meeting represents the importance both sides have attached to their military relations," said Tu Qiming (塗啟明), a Defense Ministry spokesman. "Both sides feel that the relationship is developing in a frank and constructive manner."

A US embassy spokeswoman said the talks yesterday and today would center on regional security issues including those related to Taiwan and North Korea.

Washington regards military ties with Beijing as a key part of their relations. Contacts were cut off following the collision of a US Navy surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001 but have warmed over the past two years. Relations have also been strained by US support for Taiwan.

During talks yesterday, the two sides expressed "hope that the Taiwan issue can be peacefully resolved," Tu said.

China plans to pass an anti-secession legislation in March, a law that Taiwan fears could be a pretext for an attack.

Tu said the two sides did not discuss the EU's proposed plan to lift a 15-year arms embargo against China this year.

"I do not anticipate it coming up during this round of talks," he added.

Washington opposes lifting the ban for fear that European arms could be used against US forces should they be called upon to defend Taiwan.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday's meeting was the first of its kind between the two sides.

Lawless was scheduled to meet today with Xiong Guangkai (熊光楷), deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The security talks in Beijing follow a visit to Washington last October by General Liang Guanglie (梁光烈), chairman of the general staff of the PLA. He was told by then-US secretary of state Colin Powell that the US was committed to defend Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.

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