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China lukewarm to U.S. military proposals

One of China's top generals said Monday that it was up to the United States to change its policies if it wants better ties with China's military, and he offered a lukewarm endorsement of U.S. programs designed to bring the two sides closer together.

Chinese Minister of Defense Liang Guangjie made the comments after two hours of talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who is on his first trip to China since 2007. Gates is on a mission to restore high-level military contacts with the People's Liberation Army after Beijing's decision to cut those ties a year ago, when the United States announced a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

Liang also denied that China's military modernization -- and its development of systems such as an aircraft-carrier-killing ballistic missile, anti-satellite weapons and a new stealth fighter -- posed a threat to the United States.

"We cannot call ourselves an advanced military country," Liang told reporters. "The gap between us and advanced countries is at least two to three decades."

Liang reacted tepidly to Gates' proposal that the United States and Chinese militaries engage in a wide-ranging strategic dialogue on nuclear posture, cyberwarfare and North Korea, saying the PLA was "studying it."

He did announce that one of China's most senior generals, Chen Bingde, the chief of the PLA's general staff, would travel to the United States during the first half of this year.

Liang also reiterated the PLA's commitment to pursuing joint work with the U.S. military on counterterrorism, counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. But those issues had been agreed upon already during the last high-level meeting between the two sides in October 2009.

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