Washington (AFP) Sept 14, 2010
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hosts his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on Wednesday for several hours of talks, as US officials touted improving relations between the two countries.
It was the first visit to the Pentagon by a Russian defense minister in five years, and American officials made a point of telling reporters that Gates was devoting most of his day to talks with Serdyukov.
The two planned to sign documents on defense cooperation and hold three formal meetings as well as a working dinner on a navy vessel on the Potomac river, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
The defense chiefs would be meeting for a total of at least five hours, "which is an unusually long amount of time to devote to any visiting dignitary," he told reporters.
On the eve of the visit, Gates -- a former CIA director who spent much of his career puzzling over Soviet intentions -- described Russia as a partner in an interview with the Russian agency Interfax.
He said Moscow's efforts to upgrade the country's nuclear arsenal, under a new START nuclear treaty, posed no threat to the United States.
"Modernization programs that take place within the framework of new START are completely legitimate. We will have our own modernization," he said.
"I don't see Russia as a threat," Gates added.
"We're partners in some areas and competitors in others. But on important things, we are cooperating," he said.
The US defense secretary planned to express Washington's appreciation for Moscow allowing the United States to supply NATO troops using routes through Russian territory, Morrell said.
The two officials were also expected to discuss the sensitive subject of missile defense as well as efforts to persuade the US Senate to ratify the new START treaty.
A top diplomat who helped negotiate the treaty said Tuesday that US-Russia relations could suffer if senators fail to ratify the accord, with Moscow possibly refusing to back Washington's policy on Iran.
The START deal has bolstered cooperation between the former Cold War foes on national security issues, paving the way for Moscow to support tough UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, said Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation.
Morrell said both men also would be sharing their experiences in trying to reform and streamline their defense bureaucracies.
earlier related report
Beijing, which claims the islands in the East China Sea as part of its own territory, has scrapped a visit to Tokyo this week by a senior legislator, Kyodo News reported, following last week's incident.
Japan said the skipper rammed two Japanese coastguard patrol vessels intentionally during a high-seas chase.
Japan on Monday released the 14 crew of the trawler, and allowed the boat to sail back to China, but the act did little to appease Beijing, which again demanded the immediate release of the captain, Zhan Qixiong.
Zhan, 41, is being held on suspicion of obstructing officers on duty, a charge that carries a penalty of up to three years in prison. He has so far not been indicted, the step before a trial starts.
"If that is so, it is extremely regrettable," said Japan's top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku, referring to Beijing's apparent latest reaction to the arrest.
China's foreign ministry had no immediate comment on Li's cancellation of a scheduled five-day visit or the reason for it.
Since Tokyo arrested the skipper, Beijing has reacted angrily, repeatedly summoning Japan's ambassador, cancelling talks on joint energy exploration and confronting two Japanese survey ships at sea.
Sengoku said he would have hoped for a frank exchange between both countries' lawmakers "because we are in this situation".
He reiterated Japan's case that the Chinese skipper rammed the Japanese patrol vessels, adding: "We have to deal with the case in an orderly fashion under domestic law."
The uninhabited islands -- called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- lie in an area with rich fishing grounds that is believed to contain energy deposits, and which has been a frequent focus of regional tensions.
China's state-controlled Global Times said Tuesday in an editorial: "It will be the last straw for Beijing if Japan insists on trying the Chinese captain for his fishing operation off the Diaoyu Islands, in the East China Sea."
"Japan may not have realised how much it has to lose due to its actions."
The paper warned that whoever wins a ruling party leadership battle Tuesday to become Japan's next prime minister "will have to face the fact that Japan cannot intimidate or antagonise China without serious consequences."
The island dispute has sparked strong passions with many Chinese on the mainland and beyond. Many see the dispute in light of the wartime history of imperial Japan in Asia before and during World War II.
In Taiwan, which also claims sovereignty over the islands, anti-Japanese protesters Monday set sail for the rocky outcrops.
Only two activists and three crew were on board, while Taiwan's coastguard barred another seven Hong Kong and Macau activists from joining the high-profile journey in another vessel.
On Tuesday morning the vessel faced off with Japanese patrol boats 41 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of one of the islands in the chain.
"Coastguard patrol boats are warning the vessel against entering into Japanese waters," the Japan Coast Guard said in a statement, adding that Taiwanese patrol boats were also deployed in the area.
By noon, Sengoku told the news conference, "the vessel has left our country's economic zone. Our coastguard's patrol boats and airplanes remain on alert not to let the vessel return to our country's economic zone.
He added: "There is no doubt that the Senkaku islands are historically and internationally our inherent territory. Our stance to the Senkaku issue is consistent and appropriate."
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Japan defence paper points at China's growing military reach
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 10, 2010
Japan voiced concern over China's growing military muscle in a defence paper Friday, as a row with Beijing continued over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters. In its annual Defence of Japan report, Tokyo pointed to increased Chinese naval activities near its shores, including tense incidents this year in which Chinese helicopters staged close fly-bys of Japanese warshi ... read more
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