Sat, Jan 15, 2011 - Page 1 News List

China’s military advances challenge US power: Gates

Reuters, TOKYO

A US military presence in the Pacific is essential to restrain Chinese assertiveness, Washington’s defense chief said yesterday, describing China’s technology advances as a challenge to US forces in the region.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ comments are likely to add to tensions over political and economic quarrels between the two superpowers just days before Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) heads to the US for a state visit on Wednesday.

US officials say US President Barack Obama will raise geopolitical problems such as Iran and North Korea as well as trade issues that bedevil ties between the world’s two biggest economies.

Gates, in Japan after a visit to China earlier this week, said in a speech that advances by China’s military in cyber and anti-satellite warfare technology could challenge the ability of US forces to operate in the Pacific.

While saying he did not see China as an “inevitable strategic adversary,” Gates stressed the importance of US military ties with Japan, where about 49,000 US military personnel are stationed.

Without the forward presence of US troops in Japan, China “might behave more assertively towards its neighbors,” he said.

Gates cited a territorial dispute between Japan and China that flared last year, calling it an example of why the US alliance with Japan was so important.

The warning came days after China held its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet while Gates was in Beijing on a trip aimed at easing strained military ties.

China also plans to develop aircraft carriers, anti-satellite missiles and other advanced systems which have alarmed the region and the US, the dominant military power in the Pacific.

“Questions about [China’s] intentions and opaque military modernization program have been a source of concern to its neighbors,” Gates told university students in Tokyo.

“Questions about China’s growing role in the region manifest themselves in territorial disputes, most recently in the incident in September near the Senkaku Islands [Diaoyutai Islands, 釣魚台],” Gates said, using the Japanese name for them.

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