BEIJING – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his Chinese counterpart said Monday that they would look for ways to deepen military cooperation, but tensions over Taiwan arms sales and China’s modernization of its armed forces remained unresolved.
Beginning a three-day visit to China, Gates said that China had accepted his invitation for Gen. Chen Bingde, a senior army officer, to visit Washington this year and had agreed to consider talks on nuclear posture, missile defense and cyber warfare.
But the U.S. had sought specific dates for Chen’s visit, a request that was rebuffed, and only managed to win Chinese assent to establish a working group of officials from both countries to study ways of improving military relations.
One of Gates’ priorities during his visit is to win Beijing’s agreement for closer military ties, a goal that China’s defense minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie, said his country shared.
“We are in strong agreement that in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds,” Gates said.
Chinese officials appeared intent to smooth over tensions ahead of a visit to Washington next week by President Hu Jintao.
Liang made clear China’s continuing opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, an issue that has caused repeated ruptures.
He also played down U.S. concerns about China’s effort to develop advanced fighters, missiles capable of destroying aircraft carriers, and other weapons that appear aimed primarily at countering U.S. capabilities.
“The gap between us and that of advanced countries is at least two to three decades,” Liang said.