China, US in hotline talks

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 6.11.07

Beijing, Nov. 5 (Reuters): China and the US agreed on measures today to boost defence cooperation, including setting up a hotline, but clear differences remained over Beijing’s military buildup.

US defence secretary Robert Gates said he raised “uncertainty over China’s military modernisation and the need for greater transparency to allay international concerns” in talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan.

Cao defended China’s rapid growth in military spending and, according to Gates, did not address US concerns about a Chinese anti-satellite missile test earlier this year.

But the two did announce agreements on increased cooperation and a direct phone link between their defence establishments for quick communication in times of crisis.

“The US has a relationship with China that is candid, constructive and cooperative,” Gates said. Beijing has previously indicated it backs a hotline, long wanted by Washington, but the project has not been realised.

US officials had expected China to embrace the idea again during Gates’s visit. But they said talks on finalising the arrangements would be the true test of whether Beijing really had the political will to establish such a direct link. China’s official Xinhua news agency said the link would be the first of its kind between Beijing and another country.

The two permanent members of the UN Security Council also discussed Iran’s nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is purely for energy generation but Washington believes is meant to produce an atomic bomb.

Gates said they discussed the “importance of Iran not having nuclear weapons” and he emphasised the role of economic pressure. Military relations between China and the US hit a low point in 2001 when they broke off contact following a collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a US spy plane.

While ties have improved markedly since then, Washington says Beijing has not explained sufficiently why its military budget is posting double-digit growth. Washington also says the official budget is only a fraction of the true figure.