Gates: US Won’t “Hold Down” Great Power China

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 11:20 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States understands that China has been a great power for thousands of years and will continue to be a great power into the future.

Gates told reporters Thursday that the United States is not trying to “hold China down” but only to manage the military relationship in ways that will permit the countries to cooperate where possible and to handle their differences peacefully.

Gates, who plans to meet his Chinese counterpart at a security conference that begins Friday in Singapore, said on his flight to Asia that Beijing is developing a number of new weapons systems that are of concern to the United States. But, he believes China learned a lesson from the failure of the Soviet Union and does not intend to challenge the United States across its “full range of capabilities.”

Rather, he said, he thinks the Chinese are pursuing capabilities that will give them greater freedom of action in Asia and allow them to extend their influence.

Gates said he had no opinion about a request from Taiwan to purchase advanced F-16 jet fighters from the United States, a move that would likely set back recent improvements in military relations between the countries. The relationship was frozen for a year over the last U.S. weapons sale to Taiwan.

The secretary did say that both Democratic and Republican Party administrations in which he has served have been careful to balance relations with China against a statutory requirement to make sure Taiwan has adequate weapons for its self-defense.

This is the seventh visit to Asia in 18 months for Gates, who retires at the end of this month. He will be meeting with defense ministers and military chiefs from across the Asia-Pacific region, including Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, during the Shangri La Dialogue which runs Friday through Sunday in Singapore.