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US arms sales to Taiwan stifle US-China military engagement

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Gates said he hoped the suspension would be temporary, because “stability is enhanced by contact between our military and a greater understanding of each others’ strategies.”

Engagement, however wary

In testimony last month to the House Armed Services Committee, the new head of US Pacific Command, Adm. Robert Willard, warned that China’s “stated goals of a defense-oriented military capability … appear incompatible with the extent of sophisticated weaponry China produces today.

“Reconciling these two can only occur through continuous frank conversations and mutual actions within a strong and mature military-to-military relationship,” Willard said. Such a relationship, he added, “does not yet exist with the People’s Liberation Army.”

The Chinese military is also keen to maintain contacts, says Yan Xuetong, head of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “China wants to know more about American military details,” he says, “and the talks have some diplomatic use to give the US more confidence in China.”

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