US Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern over China’s latest hi-tech weaponry and called for improving uneasy military relations with Beijing to help defuse tensions.
Speaking to reporters en route to Beijing for three days of talks, Gates said the Chinese appeared to have made more progress in building its first stealth fighter jet than previously thought and that an anti-ship missile posed a potential threat to the US military.
“They clearly have the potential to put some of our capabilities at risk. And we have to pay attention to them, we have to respond appropriately with our own programs,” Gates said.
But he said the advances in weaponry underlined the importance of building a dialogue with the Chinese military, and said his visit starting Sunday hopefully would lay the ground for deeper defense ties with Asia’s rising power.
“My hope is that through the strategic dialogue that I’m talking about that maybe the need for some of these capabilities is reduced,” Gates said.
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.
“It’s pretty clear the Chinese wanted me to come before President Hu visits Washington,” Gates said.
“My own view is a positive constructive, comprehensive relationship between the United States and China is not just in the mutual interests of the two countries, it’s in the interest of everybody in the region and I would say across the globe.”