Chinese, US Defense Officials Meet in Beijing for Annual Talks

Posted December 7th, 2011 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. and Chinese defense officials are meeting in Beijing for the first high-level talks since bilateral relations were strained by an American arms sale to Taiwan and the announcement of a U.S. plan to deploy troops in Australia.

U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michel Flournoy opened the annual talks Wednesday with China's deputy chief of the army's general staff, Ma Xiaotian.

They are the first ministry-level talks since September, when the U.S. angered China by announcing a $5.85 billion upgrade to Taiwan's Air Force.

In November, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to deploy up to 2,500 troops in Australia to boost regional security and counter Chinese regional influence – a move China has suggested is “inappropriate.”

This is the 12th round of the U.S.-China Defense Consultative Talks, which usually provide an indication of the health of relations between the two countries. China routinely breaks military relations with the U.S. to protest policies it dislikes.

Analysts says China's decision to proceed with this year's talks, even after the Taiwan arms deal, may indicate that it views a suspension of military ties as unprofitable to its interests.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has warned of possible military force against the island if it formally declares independence.

The United States is obligated by law to provide Taiwan with weapons for its defense.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency says the talks will cover bilateral military relations, the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, as well as various regional issues.

In opening remarks for the one-day summit, Xinhua reports that Ma said he hopes both sides will be able to “expand common ground, keep risks under control and avoid misjudgment.”