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China calls on Obama to strengthen military ties

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 20, 2009
China called for stronger military ties with the United States on Tuesday, just hours before Barack Obama was to take power in Washington.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Colonel Hu Changming said there were currently "difficulties" in military relations between the two nations and urged the United States to remove obstacles to an improved relationship.

"In this new period we hope that both China and the US could make joint efforts to create favourable conditions and improve and promote military-to-military relations," Hu told reporters.

"We call on the US to remove the obstacles to the growth of military relations between the two countries and to create favourable conditions for the healthy growth of military relations."

Hu was responding to a question on planned US military sales to Taiwan which resulted in China postponing a series of high-level military exchanges between the two nations last year.

Later Tuesday, China's foreign ministry also reiterated a demand to end the sales.

"China is resolutely against the US sales of weapons to Taiwan," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

"The US has the obligation to ... cautiously and properly handle the Taiwan issue and support the development of cross-strait relations through concrete actions."

Last month, China's defence minister also called on the United States to drop the planned weapons sale to Taiwan, saying it threatened Sino-US defence cooperation.

The Pentagon notified Congress in October that it planned to sell 6.5 billion dollars of military hardware to Taiwan.

"China-US military relations in the past 30 years show that only when the two sides have taken full account of each others' core interests and concerns could the two sides enjoy firm political basis for military-to-military relations," Hu said.

Since the end of a civil war in 1949, China has viewed Taiwan as a breakaway territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, while the United States has pledged to defend the island.

Besides China's decade-long missile build-up along its southeastern coast facing Taiwan, the United States has become increasingly concerned with its military modernisation programme.

The United States, Japan and other nations have repeatedly expressed concern about China's rapid military build-up in recent years, and accused the Chinese leadership of not being transparent about its spending.

Hu, who was speaking at the launch of a national defence policy paper, repeated China's position that its military was purely defensive.

"Our policy of maintaining a defensive national defence and a defensive military strategy will never waver," Hu said.

"We have always stood for peace and maintain that dialogue and cooperation be used to peacefully resolve differences and problems between nations."

According to the policy paper, China's military expenditure from 1998-2007 increased by 15.9 percent yearly on average.

China's defence expenditure in 2007 amounted to 355.5 billion yuan (52 billion dollars), only 7.5 percent of US military spending during the same year, the paper said.

China's 2007 military expenditure amounted to 1.38 percent of the nation's gross domestic product during 2007, compared with 4.5 percent in the United States, it added.

China's military budget for 2008 was 417.8 billion yuan, a rise of 17.6 percent from the previous year.

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NATO chief hopes for French return at summit in April
Brussels (AFP) Jan 19, 2009
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressed hope Monday that France would announce its full return to the alliance's military structures at a summit in France and Germany in April.







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