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US, China resume snapped military relations

PLA commander Ma Xiaotian (left), Admiral Robert Willard, US Pacific Commander (right).

BEIJING (PTI): United States and China have resumed their military-to-military level contacts snapped in January with Beijing unwilling to take the bilateral ties ahead over irritants like arms sales to Taiwan.

The Chinese frustration was voiced by a top PLA commander Ma Xiaotian, who said his country's plans for boosting military exchanges with the US had been "seriously disrupted" by Obama administrations announcement that it would go ahead with USD 6.4 billion military sales to Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as its territory which has to be reunified with the mainland.

Ma described frequent reconnaissance by the US naval ships and aircraft in the waters and airspace of China's exclusive economic zones, as another irritant in forging close forces level ties between the two countries.

But, the American side was more positive as Admiral Robert Willard, US Pacific Commander, heading his country's delegation, lamenting that forces level contact were lagging behind the two countries other engagements.

Willard told Ma, who is the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army before the formal talks "other very mature engagements that occur between the two countries."

Willard is a part of the 200 member American delegation visiting China along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take part in the second round of the strategic and economic dialogue.

The meeting was the first high-ranking military talks between the two sides since China in January partially halted military exchange programmes between the two countries in protest over US arms sales to Taiwan.

Willard told Ma that, "I've been struck by the maturity and sophistication in the level of exchange between the US and China in a wide variety of areas. Regretfully, the military to military relationship, we think, lags far behind these other very mature engagements that occur between our two countries," he said.

The US Congress passed bills limiting military exchanges with China, as represented by the 2000 Fiscal Year Defence Authorisation Law.

"The US side should be fully responsible for the prevention of the growth of China-US military relations," official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying at the meeting. US respect for China's core interests and major concerns was the key to the resumption of sound and steadily developing bilateral military ties, Ma said.

The US was expected to show sincerity in addressing sensitive issues to create conditions for the resumption and healthy development of China-US military ties, Ma said.

He said China always attaches importance to mutual trust and cooperation in the military field with the United States and was willing to conduct exchanges and cooperation with the US side in the principle of respect, equality, mutual trust, and reciprocity.

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