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U.S./World

Beijing seeks closer military ties with U.S.

| Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009

WASHINGTON -- China's military sought to assure the United States on Monday that its arms buildup was not a threat and said Beijing wanted to expand cooperation with the Pentagon to reduce the risk of conflicts.

At the start of a visit to Washington, Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the People's Liberation Army Central Military Commission, said military ties were generally moving in a "positive direction" and defended China's fast-paced military development as purely "defensive" and "limited" in scope.

"We are now predominantly committed to peaceful development, and we will not and could not challenge or threaten any other country" and "certainly not the United States," Xu told a Washington think tank before talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Xu described China's development of advanced weapons systems, including cruise and ballistic missiles, as "entirely for self-defense" and justified "given the vast area of China, the severity of the challenges facing us."

"As you know, China has yet to realize complete unification," Xu said, an apparent reference to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. "So I believe it is simply necessary for the PLA to have an appropriate level of modernity in terms of our weapons and equipment."

China's navy is emerging as a "capable regional navy" with the ability to protect shipping lanes and bring military force to bear throughout that part of the world, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead told the Tribune-Review in an interview last week. Roughead said he expects China eventually to add an aircraft carrier to its already formidable fleet of submarines and surface ships.

Xu's visit, which will include a tour of major military bases, including U.S. Strategic Command, was meant to give a boost to military-to-military dialogue, which Beijing resumed this year after halting it in 2008 to protest a $6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

U.S. officials have expressed alarm about what they see as China's unprecedented military expansion over the past year. Last week, Gates said better dialogue was needed to avoid "mistakes and miscalculations."

"I want to make clear that the limited weapons and equipment of China are entirely to meet the minimum requirements for meeting national security," Xu said through a translator.

He said military mechanization was still at an early stage. "China's defense policy remains defensive" and was designed to repel attacks, not initiate attacks, he said. "We will never seek hegemony ... military expansion."

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