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China 'wants strong links to US'

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

China's People's Liberation Army and Navy, Oct 08
China says it wants stronger military ties with the new US administration

China wants improved military relations with the United States when Barack Obama becomes president.

But a senior military official made it clear that it wants the US to stop selling arms to Taiwan, a self-governing island that China considers its own.

The comments came at an event to unveil a biennial military report.

This says that China's security situation is improving, although it still faces a number of threats.

At a press conference to release the report, Colonel Hu Changming, noting the changes in Washington, said: "In this new period, we hope that both China and the US can make joint efforts to improve and promote military-to-military relations between the two countries."

Serious harm

Col Hu, also the spokesman for China's ministry of defence, admitted that current military ties between the two nations were "faced with difficulties".

Last October, the US announced it was selling $6.5bn-worth of military hardware to Taiwan.

In response to a question about the sale, Col Hu said: "We call upon the Department of Defense in the US to remove the obstacles to the growth of military relations between the two countries."

The report itself, entitled China's National Defence in 2008, made a similar point.

"The United States continues to sell arms to Taiwan... causing serious harm to Sino-US relations, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," it says.

The paper gives an overview of China's armed forces, its development and recent military events.

It says the country's security environment continues to improve, particularly its relations with the island of Taiwan.

We call upon the department of defence in the US to remove the obstacles to the growth of military relations between the two countries
China's defence spokesman Col Hu Changming

China wants reunification with Taiwan, which has been self-ruled since 1949, and believes it is making headway.

"The attempts of the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' to seek de jure Taiwan independence have been thwarted," the report says.

But it also notes that China continues to face threats, notably from independence forces in the western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Economic insecurity caused by the slowdown in growth could also cause problems, it says.

A number of Chinese leaders have recently warned that an economic downturn could lead to more social unrest.

The report gives no information about China's military spending - a subject which concerns the US. The amount Beijing spent on its military increased by 18% last year, according to official figures.

But the report reiterates a point often made by Chinese officials - that the country spends less than others on its armed forces.

In 2007, China's military spending was just 1.4% of gross domestic product. That figure was 4.5% in the US and 2.7% in the UK, according to China.

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