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
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
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.