Monday, February 16, 2009

US-Chinese military dialogue set to resume this month

WASHINGTON (AFP) — China and the United States will resume their military dialogue in late February after Beijing suspended it last year to protest US arms sales to Taiwan, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

"On 27-28 February 2009, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney will hold annual Defense Policy Coordination Talks with the People's Liberation Army in Beijing," spokesman Bryan Whitman told AFP.

The talks were to come just a few days after a visit to China by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set for February 20-22 as part of her first foreign tour since her appointment as top US diplomat.

The Chinese Army "invited the US to participate in these talks. We take this as a positive signal that the Chinese are prepared to begin working to resume regular military-to-military exchanges," said Whitman.

And this year's talks "will address the US-China military-to-military relationship, challenges to regional and global security, and potential areas for expanding cooperation between the two militaries" including "potential for extended cooperation on piracy," he added.

"These talks will be the first policy dialogue with the PLA under the new administration and represent an opportunity to further the dialogue with (China) on areas of shared interest and mutual benefit," he said.

China's military still is primarily focused on recapturing Taiwan but the country's naval and missile buildup portends a global role for the Asian giant, the head of US intelligence said Thursday.

"China's desire to secure access to the markets, commodities, and energy supplies needed to sustain domestic economic growth significantly influences its foreign engagement," retired admiral Dennis Blair told Congress.

The priority of Chinese diplomacy is to remain on friendly terms with other major powers, especially the United States given the primacy of US demand to China's own economic growth, he said.

"But Beijing is also seeking to build its global image and influence in order to advance its broader interests and to resist what it perceives as external challenges to those interests or to China's security and territorial integrity."

Clinton launched her Asia tour in Japan Monday calling US-Pacific ties "indispensable" for curbing problems like climate change, the global financial crisis and nuclear weapons.

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