Sunday, June 6, 2010

DTN News: Arms To Taiwan No Reason To Suspend US-China Ties Says Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Defense News: DTN News: Arms To Taiwan No Reason To Suspend US-China Ties Says Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Source: DTN News / By Dan De Luce (AFP)
(NSI News Source Info) SINGAPORE - June 6, 2010: Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday chided China for suspending military ties over US arms sales to Taiwan, saying Beijing's stance "makes little sense".
Renewing his call for stronger relations between the Chinese and US militaries, Gates said such a dialogue should not be "held hostage" over the weapons sales.
The sales have been going on for decades and Washington has made clear that it does not support independence for Taiwan, Gates said in a speech at a security conference in Singapore.
"Chinese officials have broken off interactions between our militaries, citing US arms sales to Taiwan as the rationale," he said.
"For a variety of reasons, this makes little sense."
But a top Chinese officer at the conference rejected Gates' view, saying Beijing was not to blame and that arms sales to Taiwan and US naval ships in the South China Sea were undermining military relations.
"We do not regard US arms sales to Taiwan as something normal," General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of staff of the Peope's Liberation Army (PLA), said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual high-level security forum.
"The United States says it does not support Taiwan independence. We hope it's not simply... lip service," he said.
Gates had planned to travel to Beijing as part of an Asian tour that began Thursday in Singapore. But China rebuffed the defence secretary and called off the visit.
As a result, Gates chose not to meet the Chinese military delegation at the Singapore conference. After his speech, an uncomfortable exchange between a Chinese general and Gates illustrated the often tense relations between the two countries' militaries.
Major General Zhu Chenghu, speaking in English, asked Gates to explain what he called a contradiction between the US condemnation of North Korea over the sinking of Seoul's Cheonan warship and a more cautious US reaction to a deadly raid by Israel against a Gaza-bound aid ship.
"I think it (the Israeli raid) needs to be investigated and we will withhold judgement until that investigation is complete. But I think there is no comparison whatever between what happened in the eastern Mediterranean and what happened to the Cheonan," said Gates.
The South Korean ship was the target of a surprise attack, Gates said, while the Israelis issued warnings to the aid ship before their raid.
After his remarks, Gates walked over and shook hands with General Ma, the head of the Chinese delegation.
In his speech, Gates said President Barack Obama's decision to approve an arms package for Taiwan in January should have come as no surprise, as it was in keeping with long-standing US policy.
He said Washington had declared publicly for years that it did not endorse independence for Taiwan.
Gates said China's on-off approach would not persuade Washington to alter its policy and argued that US weapons sales to Taiwan helped maintain regional peace given China's growing military buildup.
Gates on Thursday suggested a rift between Chinese civilian and military leaders on the issue, saying the People's Liberation Army was much less interested in building US ties than the political leadership.
Along with calls for cooperation, Gates also said the United States would retain its elaborate military presence across the region.
"We are, and will remain, a Pacific power," he said.
While Ma voiced concern over US operations in the South China Sea, Gates called for unfettered access to the resource-rich area and said Washington objected to any effort to "intimidate" US energy firms in the region.
The South China Sea was the subject of "growing concern" due to various territorial disputes in the region, which could pose a threat to free navigation and "economic development", he said.

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