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Gates looks to defuse tensions on China trip

Chinese vice premier to visit Britain
London (AFP) Jan 7, 2011 - Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang will begin a four-day trip to Britain on Sunday and will hold talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and visit several businesses, the British government said. Li, on a European tour which has already taken in Spain and Germany, will also give a speech to a China-British Business Council event attended by top e businessmen from both countries. The trip comes two months after Cameron visited China with a team of his top ministers and business chiefs. Cameron, who will welcome Li at his Downing Street office on Monday, said: "Stronger relations with China offer a real opportunity for Britain in terms of trade, jobs, and economic growth.

"Vice-Premier Li's visit to the UK will build on the momentum created by my visit to China last year." Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is also due to meet Li, said the talks would focus on "everything from trade and investment to climate change and educational links". He added: "No subject will be off limits." During his visit to Madrid this week, Li -- widely tipped to be China's next premier -- said Beijing was willing to buy around six billion euros (7.75 billion dollars) worth of Spanish debt, El Pais newspaper quoted government sources as saying. After eurozone members Greece and Ireland were forced to seek bailouts worth tens of billions of euros last year, Spain, together with Portugal, have been seen as next in line in the 17-country currency union to need help.

China eyes deeper German economic ties: report
Berlin (AFP) Jan 7, 2011 - China and Germany, the world's top two exporters, should deepen their economic cooperation, a top Beijing official has said, ahead of a meeting on Friday with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Vice Premier Li Keqiang, widely tipped to be China's next premier, made the remarks at a closed dinner on Thursday for businesspeople in Berlin, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua. According to Xinhua, Li said the two economic powerhouses should expand ties both in traditional areas such as machinery and cars but also explore new cooperation in low-carbon technologies and energy efficient industry. He noted that bilateral trade between the two is thought to have topped $140 billion last year, around 30 times more than in 1990. For his part, German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, who met Li late on Thursday, pressed Beijing on the issue of market access in China for German firms, technology transfer and raw material supplies. "Technology transfer offers both sides great opportunities when it takes place willingly and under fair terms," Bruederle said in a ministry statement released after the meeting. "I am convinced that everyone will benefit if China ensures open, free and orderly access to its raw materials," he said.

He noted that "given the scope for improvement on market access (in China), it is encouraging that Li announced a greater opening up of the service sector." Li replied in his dinner speech that China would continue improving its investment environment, providing a "fair, stable, orderly, transparent and predictable market environment for all foreign companies in China," Xinhua said. The Chinese official was due to meet Merkel on Friday but Berlin said no press conference was planned. Later Friday, he was set to hold talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. According to a German government source, car giants Daimler and Volkswagen will ink multi-billion-dollar contracts with Chinese partners following the Li's meeting with Westerwelle. "The contracts with Daimler and VW will be more than five billion dollars," the source told AFP on Thursday.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 7, 2011
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hopes to defuse tensions with China's growing military when he visits Beijing next week in the latest US bid to forge a security dialogue with the country's sceptical generals.

The trip, to include a tour of a nuclear weapons command center, carries hefty symbolism, with military relations marred by recurring strains and Washington increasingly impatient with Beijing's stance toward North Korea.

After three days of talks in China, Gates heads to Tokyo on Wednesday and Seoul on Friday for meetings focused on the volatile crisis on the divided Korean peninsula.

With Chinese President Hu Jintao due in Washington for a pivotal state visit on January 19, both sides are anxious to show progress in defense ties, which China has repeatedly suspended over US arms sales to Taiwan.

"This was something the Chinese very much wanted to do in advance of that trip (by Hu). They want to get this relationship back on track and working in a positive direction," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday.

The visit comes a year after Beijing broke off military relations in protest against a multibillion-dollar arms package for rival Taiwan.

Gates embarks on the journey "encouraged" and "optimistic" that military relations can be placed on a more solid foundation, said Morrell, but he acknowledged that previous efforts have produced only fleeting progress.

Days before the US defense chief's trip, photographs appeared showing a prototype of China's first stealth fighter, the J-20, at an airfield in the southwest.

The images of the fighter jet coincide with mounting concerns in the Pentagon about China's increasingly assertive and capable military, including the development of anti-ship missiles that could undercut America's navy.

Although China may be years away from fielding fully-capable anti-ship missiles or warplanes to rival US fighters, analysts say it is steadily gaining ground.

In his first visit to China since 2007, Gates is scheduled to hold an array of meetings with top officials, including his counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.

On Wednesday Gates will visit the army's Second Artillery Corps headquarters outside of Beijing, which is China's nuclear command center.

The United States has long sought to open up regular discussions with the Chinese on nuclear, space and cyber weaponry, and by talking to officers overseeing the atomic arsenal, Gates hopes to lay the groundwork for such a dialogue, officials said.

Aware of the Asian juggernaut's rise, the United States for years has appealed to China to back a more "durable" dialogue -- similar to US-Soviet exchanges during the Cold War -- to avoid miscalculations.

But China has instead opted to sever ties in order to register its displeasure with Washington, particularly over billions of dollars in weapons deals to Taiwan.

"They will probably have some strong words about future arms sales to Taiwan," said June Teufel Dreyer, an expert on the Chinese military and a professor at the University of Miami.

Because China senses its economic and military might expanding, Gates will not be in a strong negotiating position, she told AFP.

"He will be perceived as begging to get the military relationship back on track, enabling Beijing to ask 'what do we get out of this?'"

Pentagon officials insist Gates is not out to plead with China.

"China will need to buy into the framework and the logic we see for the military-to-military relationship for its own reasons and in pursuit of its own interests, not because we ask them to," Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said in a speech Thursday.

China's fast-growing military will also be on the agenda when Gates travels to Japan on January 13-14, where he will hold talks with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Tokyo last month announced a shift of strategy in which it would bolster its defenses in the south to address concerns about China's armed forces as well as the threat posed by North Korea.

On Friday, Gates makes a brief stop in Seoul to discuss how to prevent tensions from escalating with North Korea in meetings with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the new defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin.

"China has a very important role to play here as well, to get Pyongyang to understand that its current course and its current behavior is extraordinarily dangerous and destabilizing," said a senior defense official, who asked not to be named.

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US cannot accept China military power: state media
Beijing (AFP) Jan 7, 2011
China will eventually have a military powerful enough to compete with the United States, state media said Friday ahead of the visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The claim in a newspaper editorial followed reports that China had completed a prototype of a stealth fighter and after a top US military official said Beijing was stepping up efforts to deploy a "carrier-killer" missile sys ... read more

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