China: military 'decades behind' US
China has insisted that its military technology lags "decades behind" the United States and other developed countries and poses no threat to the rest of the world.
Liang Guanglie, the Chinese defence minister, spoke on the first day of a three-day trip to Beijing by Robert Gates, the US Defence secretary.
"The efforts that we place on the research and development of weapons systems are by no means targeted at any third country or any other countries in the world, and it will by no means threaten any other country in the world," said Mr Liang.
His conciliatory tone was echoed by Li Keqiang, who is likely to become China's prime minister next year. On the first day of a tour of Britain, Mr Li stressed that China had "actively mediated" to reduce international tensions in Iran, Darfur and North Korea.
Observers have been surprised over the past month by the speed of China's military advances, after officials unveiled a new stealth fighter jet and brought forward the deployment of its first aircraft carrier.
The People's Liberation Army now also has an operational ballistic missile that can target and destroy aircraft carriers, the first such weapon in the world. The new missile is likely to challenge the dominance of the US navy in the Pacific.
In response, Mr Gates pledged that the US would match the Chinese advances with its own programmes. "I've been concerned about the development of anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles ever since I took this job," he said, as he travelled to Beijing.
The Global Times, a Communist party newspaper, said in an editorial that China nevertheless remains "one generation or more behind the US in military technology." It added that China, as a "fragile" country, needed to develop its military in order to "make any power think twice before trying to offend China's key interests".
Mr Gates and Mr Liang agreed to establish a working group in order to bring the US and Chinese armies closer together.
"We are in strong agreement that in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds," he said.
US and Chinese military ties were curtailed for much of 2010 after Beijing protested against a proposed arms sale to Taiwan. China has also loudly complained at joint exercises that the US has carried out in the Yellow Sea with South Korea involving the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier.
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