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China says military ties 'remain difficult,' urges US actions
Updated: 2009-02-27 16:00

BEIJING -- China on Friday urged the United States to remove obstacles that stand in the way of the renewed military ties seriously damaged by the US arms sale to Taiwan.

"China-US military relations remain difficult. We expect the United States to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of our military ties," Qian Lihua, director of Foreign Affairs Office of China's Defense Ministry, said.

Qian's comments came at the start of the two-day Defense Policy Coordination Talks in Beijing, co-chaired by Qian and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney.

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Though the fifth since its inception in 2005, the talks were the first between the two defense ministries after the Pentagon announced a $6.5 billion Taiwan arms deal last October. The deal included 30 Apache attack helicopters and 330 Patriot missiles.

It was the biggest arms sale to Taiwan since China and the United States signed the "August 17 Communique" in 1982, in which the United States agreed to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan.

But the dialogue itself didn't necessarily signify the resumption of the suspended military exchanges between both countries, according to Qian.

"Frankly speaking, it will take a long time to restore our military exchanges as not a single obstacle in military ties has been removed so far," Qian said.

"Those US obstacles included the arms sales to Taiwan, some bills limiting the bilateral military exchanges, as represented by the 2000 Fiscal Year Defense Authorization Act, etc.," said Yang Yi, a strategic expert with National Defense University of China.

The dialogue was also the first military-to-military consultation between both countries since the Obama administration took office last month.

"I was here two months ago when I was an official of the Bush administration. Now I am happy to come as an official of the Obama administration," Sedney said.

"We look forward to hearing the proposals of the new US administration on promoting bilateral military relations," Qian said.

Saying his tour "followed the footsteps" of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, Sedney stressed the importance of bilateral military relations.

"Thus we must increase communications to reduce the chance of strategic misunderstanding," Sedney said. "We do have a lot of serious and important things to talk about ... I hoped this year's session will be productive and fruitful."

Among the Chinese participants were mid-level officers from the army, navy and air force as well as some military scholars.

The US delegation to the talks included  officials from the Defense Department, the State Department, the Pacific Command and the Joint Chief of Staff.

Sedney will also meet with Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, before leaving for Seoul Saturday afternoon.