Tags: keating | china | navy

Top U.S. Pacific Commander to Visit China Next Week

Tuesday, 08 Jan 2008 10:02 PM

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The top commander of the US Pacific Fleet will meet Chinese military officials in Beijing next week, state media said Tuesday, in talks that come after a heated row over US naval visits to Hong Kong.

Admiral Timothy Keating, commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Command, will visit China from January 13 to 16, Xinhua news agency said.

Keating will discuss Sino-US military ties, Taiwan and other issues, said the report, citing a defence ministry statement.

In late November, top US military officials expressed surprise and anger after China abruptly cancelled a long-planned Hong Kong port call by the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its battle group over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Chinese officials at the time strongly suggested that the cancellation was linked to the recent US approval of three billion dollars in weapons sales to Taiwan and an October meeting between US President George W. Bush and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, by force if necessary, and has long been incensed with US weapons sales to the island.

Beijing also views the Dalai Lama as a dangerous figure seeking independence for Tibet.

But the defence ministry statement said it hoped Keating's visit would foster stronger Sino-US military ties during 2008.

"China takes a positive attitude towards developing military relations with the United States, and hopes Keating's visit could further enhance understanding, expand consensus and boost cooperation," it said.

© 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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