Time not ripe to restart China-US military exchanges

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, July 29, 2010
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The time is not ripe for China and the United States to resume their military talks despite Washington's will to do so, Chinese experts say. But they believe future talks will occur.

Their comments came after the US renewed its call to restart stalled military exchanges with China. 

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said on Tuesday that the lack of sustained military ties between the US and China is a key challenge for the two countries at a time of tension in Asia, Reuters reported.

"The most important (challenge) ... is the continued unwillingness of China to deepen the military-to-military engagement," Steinberg said in remarks at the Nixon Center in Washington, according to Reuters.

"It's frankly unproductive for China to see this as a benefit to be offered or withheld in relationship to other issues," he said.

Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told China Daily on Wednesday that Steinberg's remarks are unfair and prejudiced, and the US should take a look at itself.

"China hopes to develop military ties with the US on the basis of equality, but China has not been treated equally. The US hurt China's core interests, and China cannot relaunch military-to-military ties with the US right now," Zhai added.

As part of the Obama administration's strategy to reframe relations with big powers, the US is highlighting cooperation with China in many fields, including military ties, said Fan Jishe, expert of the Institute of American Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"But China's core interests and security concerns have not been respected by the US," Fan said.

In January, China cut off military-to-military contact with the US to protest the Pentagon's decision to sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan.

On Sunday the US and the Republic of Korea kicked off joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan, which inflamed regional tensions.

And US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked Chinese interests in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi last week, Fan said.

"Under such circumstances, the US is anxious to revive stalled military ties with China, and the US wants to weaken China's position on some issues such as arms sales to Taiwan," said Shi Yinghong, professor of International Relations at Beijing-based Renmin University of China.

China thinks that military talks with the US are necessary, but obviously it is not the appropriate time to revive military ties now, Shi added.

However, relaunching military talks is not that difficult.

China will welcome a visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a time "appropriate to both sides", said General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, after China turned down a proposed fence-mending visit by Gates in June.

Some experts share Ma's view.

If Gates visits China at a proper time and establishes a mechanism for high-level visits, military ties will revive step by step, Fan said.

Shi also said that China will resume military exchanges with the US in the near future.

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