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China pushes US on Taiwan weapons sales

CHINA yesterday urged the United States to stop selling arms to Taiwan and remove other obstacles that stand in the way of renewing military ties that were seriously damaged over the weapons issue.

"China-US military relations remain difficult," Qian Lihua, director of the Defense Ministry's Foreign Affairs Office, said in Beijing. "We expect the United States to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of military ties."

Qian's comments came at the start of two-day defense policy coordination talks co-chaired by Qian and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney.

The fifth round of talks since their inception in 2005 were the first between the two defense ministries since the Pentagon announced a US$6.5 billion Taiwan arms deal last October.

The deal included 30 Apache attack helicopters and 330 Patriot missiles.

It was the biggest arms sale to Taiwan since China and the United States signed the "August 17 Communique" in 1982, in which the US agreed to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan.

"The US arms sale to Taiwan hurt China's core security interests and affected peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," Qian said.

"China urges the United States to prudently deal with the Taiwan question, stop upgrading substantive military relations with Taiwan, stop selling arms and make concrete actions in support of the peaceful development of cross-strait ties," Qian said.

The dialogue itself did not necessarily signify the resumption of the suspended military exchanges, Qian said.

"Frankly speaking, it will take a long time to restore our military exchanges, as not a single obstacle in military ties has been removed so far," he said.

The dialogue was also the first military-to-military consultation between the two countries since US President Barack Obama took office last month.

"I was here two months ago when I was an official of the Bush administration. Now I am happy to come as an official of the Obama administration," Sedney said.

Saying his tour followed the footsteps of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, Sedney stressed the importance of bilateral military relations.

"Thus, we must increase communications to reduce the chance of strategic misunderstanding," Sedney said. "We do have a lot of serious and important things to talk about ... I hope this year's session will be productive and fruitful."

Qian said China looks forward to hearing the proposals of the new US administration on promoting bilateral military relations.

Yesterday's talks also covered China-US maritime security consultation, international and regional security, escort missions in the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden and Somalia.


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