Gates says new military talks could begin soon

Beijing, Jan 11 (AP) The United States and China couldhold first-of-their-kind formal military talks in the firsthalf of this year, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates saidtoday.

The security talks would be a step beyond currentcontacts largely focused on maritime issues, and would covernuclear and missile defense issues as well as cyber warfareand military uses of space.

China broke off lower-level military ties a year agoin protest of a huge US arms sale to Taiwan, Beijing''s rival.

Gates said he told Chinese officials that while the US cannotpromise not to make further sales, the US might reconsidermilitary support to Taiwan in the future.

That would depend on a lowering of tension betweenChina and Taiwan, and "would be an evolutionary and long-termprocess," Gates said. Taiwan considers itself independent fromChina, while China claims the self-governing island as aprovince. The United States officially considers Taiwan a partof China but also supplies it with defensive arms to deter aChinese attack.

China conducted the first test flight of aradar-evading fighter jet hours before Gates was to discussthe proposal with Chinese President Hu Jintao today. Gatestold reporters afterward that he asked Hu whether the test wastimed intentionally to coincide with Gates'' visit and that hetook Hu "at his word" that it was not.

A senior US defense official said Hu did not appear toknow about the flight until Gates asked about it. The officialspoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorisedto discuss the confidential meeting publicly. (AP)

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