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US and China set for defence talks on NKorea

BEIJING (AFP) - US and Chinese defence officials were to meet for talks in Beijing on Tuesday with the Americans expected to seek Beijing's support for international pressure on North Korea.

The US delegation led by Michele Flournoy, under-secretary for defence, was also expected to push for closer US-China defence ties following concerns in Washington over Beijing's expanding military and recent stand-offs at sea.

"North Korea will factor in very strongly," a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters in Washington over the weekend.

Pyongyang's recent nuclear test and missile launches have caused "great concern" in China, he said.

"We would hope that China would use whatever influence they have with North Korea to convince them to change their behaviour," he added.

The state-run China Daily newspaper quoted an unnamed Chinese military official due to attend the talks that the two delegations would look for ways to cooperate over issues such as nuclear disarmament.

It gave no further details.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on June 12 that included financial sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test last month and several missile launches.

China, which shares a border with North Korea, is the isolated state's main ally.

Beijing has always favoured cautious diplomacy with Pyongyang, wary of causing its hardline regime to collapse and potentially sending millions of refugees streaming over its border, yet it supported the UN resolution.

North Korea has reacted defiantly to the sanctions, vowing to build more nuclear bombs, scuppering international efforts to denuclearise it.

The Chinese side will be led by Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, the China Daily said.

The meetings come amid recent tensions in Sino-US military relations.

In March this year, US and Chinese vessels confronted each other twice in the South China Sea, triggering accusations by the United States that China was behaving in an "aggressive" manner.

In May, China accused a US naval vessel of violating maritime law after a confrontation with Chinese fishing boats.

In the most recent incident, a Chinese submarine collided with an underwater sonar towed by a US destroyer off the coast of the Philippines.

The US official said Washington wanted more high-level visits by Chinese defence officials to the United States "so we can understand their continuing build-up and make sure the conditions for stability and peace are maintained."

The China Daily quoted the Chinese military source as saying both sides had "the same need for cooperation," adding the talks would also touch on Afghanistan and Taiwan.

China cut-off military exchanges between the two countries in October 2008 over a proposed US$6.5 billion arms package to Taiwan. The two sides, however, went on to hold military talks in February. (By MARIANNE BARRIAUX/AFP)

MySinchew 2009.06.23


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