Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - Page 1 News List

PRC defense chief objects to US arms sales

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Chinese Minister of National Defense General Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) reiterated his country’s objections to US arms sales to Taiwan during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Beijing on Monday.

“China’s position has been clear and consistent — we are against it,” he told a joint press conference with Gates, who is on a four-day visit to China

A transcript of the short conference, in which only four questions were allowed, was released by the Pentagon on Monday.

Just how central Taiwan is to Gates’ visit to Beijing ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) state visit to the US next week was highlighted by the fact that two of the questions concerned US arms sales to Taiwan.

The first question to Liang was: “Secretary Gates said that your military-to-military relations would no longer be subject to political whims. Does that mean that you have agreed that future talks will not be called off if for example the US were to make another large arms sale to Taiwan?”

In response, Liang said arms sales to Taiwan “seriously damaged China’s core interests.”

“We do not want to see that happen again, neither do we hope that the US arms sales to Taiwan will again and further disrupt our bilateral and military-to-military relationship,” he said.

US analysts later said Liang was probably being deliberately vague about the potential fallout from further arms sales, but that they believed it was likely Beijing would again disrupt US-China military talks if the arms sales occurred as expected.

The analysts, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was little doubt that US-China relations would suffer a major blow — perhaps leading to the cancelation of many programs — if the US agreed to Taiwan’s request for 66 F-16C/D fighter aircraft.

While Liang did not mention the F-16s, he said that in his two-hour meeting with Gates, they had discussed “difficulties and obstacles” in a very candid manner.

“I believe this way has helped lay down a very solid foundation for the settlement of our differences and the future progress of our mil-to-mil [military-to-military] relations,” Liang said.

Liang said that he felt positive about the future just so long as both sides worked together to “appropriately handle our differences.”

“What I want to emphasize here is that we also hope the United States will pay sufficient attention to the concerns of the Chinese side and take measures to gradually remove or reduce the obstacles that stand in the way of our mil-to-mil relations,” he said.

Asked how he thought US arms sales to Taiwan would affect the development of China-US military-to-military relations, Gates said: “It goes without saying the sales have created difficulties between us in the past.”

Opening the conference, Liang said that he and Gates had in-depth exchanges on regional security interests of common interest.

Gates said it had been agreed that a working group to develop a new framework for improving ties between the US and Chinese militaries would be established.

The group will meet several times this year and will present the framework during this year’s Defense Consultative Talks.

Following the press conference, Gates met Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) and was scheduled to meet Hu before visiting the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Corps — which comprises the bulk of the ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan — today.

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