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China and US commanders upgrade military ties

Written by: Staff

Beijing, May 11: China and the United States have agreed to upgrade military exchanges after commanders from the two often wary military powers met in Beijing, Chinese state media reported today.

The commander of the U S Pacific naval force, William Fallon, and Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan agreed on yesteerday to ''step up military exchanges at all levels'', Xinhua News Agency reported.

Fallon arrived in Beijing on Tuesday.

The two countries broke off military ties in 2001 after a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U S surveillance plane over the South China Sea, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the U S crew to land in China, sparking a diplomatic row before their release.

Cao, the Chinese commander, said military exchanges between the two sides were now reviving and the two sides planned to ''expand military exchanges and cooperation''.

The Chinese media reports carried no mention whether the United States would invite China to observe any military exercises.

The Pentagon has regularly raised doubts about China's future military intentions, particularly towards Taiwan, a democratic self-ruled island that China says could face war if it pushed for full independence.

China's 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army is the world's largest standing force. Its capabilities are dwarfed by the U S military's.

But Beijing has accelerated military modernisation and its official defence budget is set to rise 14.7 per cent to 283.8 billion yuan (.4 billion) in 2006.

U S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials have said China's military budget is too murky and probably much larger than the official budget.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the United States last month in a trip intended to allay fears about China's growing international influence.

Today's overseas edition of the official People's Daily, a senior Party adviser, Zheng Bijian, called for more exchanges to reduce U S wariness.

''On strategic issues, we should enhance mutual exchanges and communication to strengthen confidence and allay suspicions, and so reduce misjudgements,'' Zheng wrote.

Cao praised the state of relations, too. But he also issued another blunt warning about Taiwan, which has been divided from the mainland since Nationalist forces fled there in 1949.

''The Taiwan issue concerns China's core interests,'' he told Fallon, according to the Liberation Army Daily.

''We hope the U S will clearly oppose Taiwan's independence.''


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