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Ambit of US, China military talks could widen: Gates


US Defence Secretary Robert Gates with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Tuesday. A US DoD photo

BEIJING (AP): The United States and China could hold first-of-their-kind formal military talks in the first half of this year, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said.

The security talks would be a step beyond current contacts largely focused on maritime issues, and would cover nuclear and missile defense issues as well as cyber warfare and military uses of space.

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

Gates said he told Chinese officials that while the US cannot promise not to make further sales, the US might reconsider military support to Taiwan in the future.

That would depend on a lowering of tension between China and Taiwan, and "would be an evolutionary and long-term process," Gates said.

Taiwan considers itself independent from China, while China claims the self-governing island as a province. The United States officially considers Taiwan a part of China but also supplies it with defensive arms to deter a Chinese attack.

China conducted the first test flight of a radar-evading fighter jet hours before Gates was to discuss the proposal with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday.

Gates told reporters afterward that he asked Hu whether the test was timed intentionally to coincide with Gates' visit and that he took Hu “at his word” that it was not.

A senior US defense official said Hu did not appear to know about the flight until Gates asked about it.

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