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US urged to mend military ties
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China is urging the United States to take actions to repair military ties seriously damaged by a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

"China-U.S. military ties lag far behind overall relations. The United States should take concrete measures to repair them," Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, told the visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte on Thursday.

China curtailed some military exchanges with the United States after the Pentagon announced a $6.5 billion Taiwan arms deal last October. It included 30 Apache attack helicopters and 330 Patriot missiles.

It was the biggest arms sale to Taiwan since China and the United States signed the "August 17 Communique" in 1982, in which the United States agreed to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan.

Military contacts between the two countries had become active and fruitful before the Taiwan arms sale. Apart from frequent exchanges at different levels, defense departments set up hotlines and military officials got involved in the China-U.S. strategic talks for the first time last year.

"Military ties, which don't enjoy a solid foundation, were further damaged by the U.S. move," Ma said in his hour-long meeting with Negroponte. "That created an obstacle to exchanges and cooperation in a range of spheres. The responsibility for this belongs entirely to the United States."

Last December, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney came to Beijing in an effort to find ways to mend strained military ties. The visit didn't produce any substantive progress.

"I think it will take a long time to restore military relations," Ma said.

With his principal mission of commemorating the 30th anniversary of U.S.-China diplomatic ties, Negroponte hailed the increased exchanges and positive dialogues between the two countries over the past three decade.

"It is fair to say that our military-to-military relationship is not as advanced as the other aspects, like commercial and financial ties. There is work to be done," Negroponte said.

"Probably nothing that I can do or say will cause the exchanges to be restored between now and the end of the Bush administration, which has 10 days left."

Negroponte said the U.S. defense policy would generally continue as the current Defense Secretary Robert Gates will stay in the Obama administration and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen will keep his function.

"Hopefully in time these ties and exchanges will be restored because they are in the mutual interests of the two nations," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2009)

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