Chinese, US defense ministers to meet

Updated: 2011-06-02 08:02

By Ma Liyao and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie will meet his US counterpart Robert Gates in Singapore this week, as Washington vowed for an enduring presence in Southeast Asia and asked for deepened cooperation with Beijing in the region.

Guan Youfei, deputy director of the ministry's foreign affairs office, announced the arrangement at a news briefing on Wednesday for Liang's agenda at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, scheduled for June 3 to 5.

The bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of Asia's most prominent security conference, is likely to be the last chance for Liang to meet Gates as US secretary of defense. This is Gates' final trip overseas before he is scheduled to leave his Pentagon post on June 30.

The two met in January in Beijing, when Gates visited China after proposed US arms deals with Taiwan resulted in frozen military ties between the two countries in 2010.

This will be the first time that Beijing has sent its defense minister to the meeting.

Guan said Liang will explain China's national defense policies and re-emphasize China's determination on peaceful development at the conference.

The message came one day after the top US diplomat for East Asia Kurt Campbell on Tuesday played down competition between China and the United States in Southeast Asia.

"Obviously there's a degree of competition in any relationship, and there is that between the United States and China, but we want to make sure that we work together in an appropriate manner in Southeast Asia," Campbell said in a speech on US policy toward the region at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

But Campbell also said a review is under way of the US military posture in the region, which he said was aimed at sending a message that the US would maintain a "secure, enduring American presence".

He also said the US wanted to elevate its bilateral relationship with Indonesia, the largest nation and current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

US President Barack Obama will become the first US president to attend a summit of East Asian leaders, which will be held in November in Indonesia.

Washington irritated Beijing last year by asserting that the US had a national security interest in the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes between Beijing and several Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea. China has insisted that the disputes be settled through bilateral channels.

According to Guan, the Chinese defense minister will also meet the Singaporean defense leader, while other bilateral or multilateral talks are still under discussion despite the tight agenda.

One president, two prime ministers, one deputy prime minister and 21 defense leaders will attend the forum, according to the host of the forum.

Six topics on Asia-Pacific security are set, including one on China's international security cooperation.

Fan Jishe, an expert on US studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Campbell's promise of a "secure, enduring American presence" in the region is to assure US allies and partners Washington's support will continue despite its shrinking military budget.

"But with the strength more or less impacted in the financial crisis, the US would like to deepen exchanges with China to ease its concerns rather than confronting Beijing," he said.

Against such a backdrop, Fan said Beijing should follow its path of peaceful development and deepen communication with other countries.

"Everybody has seen the fact that the Chinese military buildup has been more and more transparent. China should follow its own way, but be prepared for any concrete impact posted by US presence in the region."

Niu Jun, a professor for international politics with Peking University, said high-ranking Chinese leaders visiting the US recently, including Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army Chen Bingde, who visited the US last month, have made it clear to Washington that China has no plans to challenge security interests and the status of the US.

As for US presence here, Niu said every country has its own views on whether the presence is a threat to regional security, but China has seen frequent US military activities around its territory these years.

The two sides need to discuss that issue to enhance mutual understanding, he said.

AP contributed to this story.


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