Gates: US-China military ties 'pretty good'

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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that relations with China were at "a pretty good place".

Gates, speaking en route to a defence conference in Singapore, said the United States was not trying to prevent China from realising its potential but did want to find ways to successfully manage the differences between the two sides.

"There is value in a continuing dialogue by the two sides on just exactly what our concerns are, what our issues are and how we might alleviate those concerns on both sides," said Gates, who will meet his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie in Singapore on Friday.

"That's why I've believed all along that the strategic dialogue is so important. We are not trying to hold China down. China has been a great power for thousands of years. It is a global power and will be a global power. So the question is how we work our way through this in a way that ensures that we continue to have positive relations," Gates said.

Gates told reporters on his plane that he did not believe the Chinese were trying to challenge US military power on all fronts.

"They do not intend to try to compete with us across the full range of our capabilities but I think they are intending to develop capabilities that give them a considerable freedom of action in Asia and the opportunity to extend their influence."

Gates, who is due to retire at the end of June, said he was "very satisfied" with the progress of US-Chinese military ties during his tenure in office.

"I laid out a fairly ambitious agenda for developing our military-to-military relationship," he said, noting that he first visited as defence secretary in 2007. "Obviously it hit snags or obstacles along the way but I think we're in a pretty good place now."

At the security summit in Singapore, Gates aims to reassure allies that the United States will continue to uphold its security commitments in Asia despite coming budget cutbacks and his own imminent departure.

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