Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

US slates China's Taiwan response

By Juliana Liu
Asia Business Report, Singapore air show

Chinese soldiers undergo winter training at a military camp in Changchun, northeast China
Mr Lemkin believes military tension replacing dialogue is detrimental

A senior US air force official has criticised China's decision to suspend bilateral military dialogue.

Beijing said it would halt such talks after Washington approved a $6.4bn (£4bn) arms deal with Taiwan last week.

"For China to cut off all military dialogue is ridiculous in my view," Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the US Air Force, told BBC News.

Mr Lemkin also criticised China's threats of sanctions against firms involved in the Taiwan arms deal.

He described these threats as "truly counterproductive".

The row between China and the US has dominated discussions at the Singapore air show, Asia's largest aerospace event.

Companies that could be affected by Chinese sanctions include McDonnell Douglas, a unit of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Sikorsky Aircraft, part of United Technologies.

Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the US Air Force
We have much more in common in our aspirations than in what sets us apart
Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the US Air Force

"We certainly hope China will look at this again," Mr Lemkin said.

Building confidence

Mr Lemkin said it was vital for military officials from different countries to communicate in order to build trust and greater understanding.

"Military to military dialogue really is the essence of confidence building," he said.

"Military people understand better than others how important it is to have that level of confidence. It strikes me as counter productive to terminate that relationship.

"We have much more in common in our aspirations than in what sets us apart."

Legitimate role

Asked why China has protested against the Taiwan deal in such an unusually vocal way, Mr Lemkin said: "I don't know, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Washington is obliged to provide military support to Taiwan under US law. The arms deal with Taiwan included 114 Patriot missiles and 60 Black Hawk helicopters.

US firms not directly selling arms to Taiwan, such as diversified manufacturer Honeywell, are also concerned about possible fallout from deteriorating US-China ties.

Mr Lemkin, an experienced military negotiator, said the United States needed a partnership with China, especially in engaging Iran to rein in its nuclear ambition.

"China is a great country with a very legitimate role in the region and in the world," he said.

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