Thu, Feb 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US defense talks with Beijing fail to ease tensions

'COMPLICIT' The US told Chinese officials that they were escalating cross-strait tensions, and the Chinese seem to have made little effort to show otherwise

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

US-China defense talks last week failed to bridge gaps over Taiwan and crisis management issues, a senior US defense official said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon sees a "continuing substantial increase" in Chinese military capabilities and during the talks in Beijing, Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Lawless repeated the US view that China is "complicit in creating or escalating tensions" with Taiwan, the official said.

Lawless and his delegation went into the meetings last week hoping to "break the impasse" over an agreement that would ensure the two sides can cooperate in case of sea and air emergencies, the official said.

But the so-called military maritime consultative agreement has for seven years been "semi-hostage" to continuing policy disputes over maritime territorial issues and remains that way, he said.

The senior official said the next Pentagon report will conclude that "the build-up continues apace."

There is a "continuing substantial increase in capabilities, particularly ... to improve their ability to either coerce or attack Taiwan," he said.

"It is a reason for concern and we don't miss any opportunity to express to the Chinese that we think they are complicit in creating or escalating tensions by that particular build-up. We repeated that at this meeting" in Beijing, he added.

The official was speaking about US-Chinese relations to reporters condition of anonymity.

He said the most recent military and defense policy white paper released by Beijing described the US military presence in the Pacific and the security situation regarding Taiwan in troubling ways.

The US presence in the region had "complicated security factors," the Chinese military document stated. And the situation in the Taiwan Strait is "grim," it added.

During recent talks, Pentagon officials pressed their Chinese counterparts to explain those choices of words, which the Defense Department official described as "an escalation in the level of rhetoric."

Contacts between the US and China were cut off after the collision of a US navy surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001. Ties have warmed over the past two years, but tensions remain over Taiwanese and Chinese technology sales to Iran.

The two countries will hold more military talks next month or in April in Washington hosted by US Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the official said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has agreed in principle to visit China this year after repeated invitations, "but there was absolutely no commitment to do so," the official said.

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