Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fresh dialogue between China and the United States in military matters can be “helpful to strengthen understanding and mutual trust, and promote the development of China-U.S. relations," Chinese President Hu Jintao said during a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who in turn called his trip a “major step forward in the US China relationship”.
However, China did not refrain from using the visit to show off its military might by unveiling a prototype of its first stealth fighter, the J-20. The new plane is expected to be operational by 2017.
For President Hu, the secretary’s visit to Beijing will boost mutual understanding and trust and promote bilateral relations. It also shows the high importance the two countries attach to the development of military-to-military relations.
Gates’ mission comes later than planned after Beijing decided to freeze relations with the United States a year ago when Washington announced its intention to sale weapons to Taiwan. China’s Defence Minister Liang Guanglie said that such sales “damaged China's core interests.”
Yet, Secretary Gates stressed that, despite differences in some important matters, China and the United States can and must work together in certain areas. More importantly, through dialogue they can overcome such differences.
In fact, it was announced that the two nations would set up a number of working groups to cooperate on issues like terrorism, piracy and humanitarian action after natural disasters. They will include Chinese and US military experts whose joint action will strengthen cooperation.
Despite steps towards greater strategic and military cooperation, China and the United States are still far apart on the issue of Taiwan.
Washington continues to defend the island after it broke away from the mainland at the end of the civil war, whereas Beijing continues to view it as a “rebel province” that must be reconquered.