US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ China trip from tomorrow shows the unease between the two largest economies as the US official issued a veiled warning saying the US will take appropriate action to counter China’s stealth aircrafts and air-craft carrier destroying long range missiles.
Before arriving in Beijing on Sunday night, Mr. Gates accepted that the US had been unsuccessful in anticipating the stealth aircraft progress fully – designs of which appeared over the internet last week. The J-20 prototype’s appearance in the media has come as a surprise before the defense secretary’s visit – supposed to bolster US-China trades.
Commenting on the images that appeared in Chinese media, Mr. Gates said “We knew they were working on a stealth aircraft, what we’ve seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that stealth aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted” while travelling to China.
The Chinese long range anti-ship missile has been on the US’s watch-list since he took over his job, he said. Washington knew “they clearly have potential to put some of our capabilities at risk and we have to pay attention to them; we have to respond appropriately with our own programmes”.
US security analysts fear that such capabilities threaten US’s strategic influence over the South China Sea and make it difficult for the US to defend Taiwan.
Mr. Gates visit was ostensibly meant to build confidence ahead of Chinese president Hu Jintao’s scheduled visit to Washington starting from January 18 in the areas of internet security, missile defense and nuclear policy.
He was forthright about the agenda of his visit saying “My hope is through the strategic dialogue that I’m talking about maybe the need for some of these capabilities is reduced. A positive, constructive, comprehensive relationship between the US and China is not just in the mutual interest of the two countries; it is in the interest of everybody in the region and I would say across the globe”, he said underlining the importance of US-China relationship.
Military interactions between the two countries have deteriorated in the past after US sold arms to Taiwan and China responded by cutting off military ties with Washington.
Mr. Gates did not appear to be overtly concerned about the Chinese stealth fighter and said there remains “some question about just how stealthy” the aircraft was. When asked about to comment on the anti-ship missile with more than 1,500 KM range, he said: “I think they are fairly far along, but whether it has actually reached initial operational capability or not, I just don’t know”, downplaying any imminent danger.