China told to open up on military issues

Beijing, November 5:

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates today urged China to be more transparent over its military build-up, warning there were international concerns over the rising Asian power’s armed forces.

Gates said he raised with Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan during talks in Beijing “the uncertainty over China’s military modernisation and the need for greater transparency to allay international concerns”.

US officials had said ahead of Gates’ two-day trip that he hoped to get a clearer understanding of China’s military build-up and ambitions.

China has stated that its annual military spending rose 17.8 percent this year to 45 billion dollars. But the Pentagon believes China’s military budget is as high as 125 billion dollars a year. Gates also called for China to step up its role in international diplomacy, adding he had raised issues such as North Korea, Iran and Sudan in his talks with Cao.

“China’s increasing political and economic stature calls for this country to take on a greater share of responsibility for the health and success of the international system,” he said.

However, in a sign of warming ties, the two sides agreed to set up a hotline between their militaries, and Gates gave an overall positive assessment of bilateral relations. Gates said the US relationship with China was “candid, constructive and cooperative”. Gates is due to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao tomorrow, before flying on to South Korea and then Japan in a week-long Asian trip.