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US Will Respond to Chinese Military Build-Up

The US said at the weekend it would respond to the rapidly-increasing military capabilities of China by building up its own strength in the region.

by David Eimer in Beijing

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, was speaking as he arrived in Beijing on Sunday for four days of talks aimed at renewing ties between the US and Chinese armed forces. However his visit has been overshadowed by a series of announcements by the Chinese about the growing strength of their missile technology, naval capabilities and other defence initiatives.

The visit is the first by a US defence secretary since 2000, and comes at a time of heightened tension in the region. It is also almost one year after China suspended military contacts with Washington following arms sales to Taiwan.

With relations between North and South Korea at their lowest point in decades, Beijing has been angered by joint US-South Korean military exercises close to its shores, while Washington is concerned by China's increasing willingness to flex its muscles. Ten days ago, Japan revealed that it had scrambled its fighter jets 44 times in the last nine months in response to incursions into Japanese air space by the Chinese air force.

"I've been concerned about the development of the anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles ever since I took this job," said Mr Gates. "They clearly have the 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."

Last Thursday, Mr Gates announced a five-year military budget that would include funding for a new generation of long-range bombers, as well as for new electronic jammers and radar.

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