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Chinese Defense Minister Visits Philippines, Offers Aid


China's defense minister, Cao Gangchuan offered limited aid to the Philippine military on a five-day visit to the Philippines that analysts say has more political than military significance. Douglas Bakshian reports.

Manila officials say China has pledged about $2 million worth of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles to the Philippine military. The equipment is intended for use on the military's development projects in areas where communist and Muslim guerrillas operate.

Manila political analyst Ramon Casiple says the donations are a confidence building measure with more political than military impact.

"If you are talking quantity, it does not matter that much. It is the political implications. The implication I think there is that the Philippines is really an independent country, it will accept aid from anybody," he said.

Politically the Philippines has long been a close ally of the United States, and Casiple says there are dangers for Manila in getting too close to China.

However, Chinese-Philippine ties have been growing closer as the Asian giant expands its influence in the region.

China has donated engineering and transport vehicles since 2004. In addition, Manila and Beijing have had annual defense meetings, exchanging information on fighting terrorism and international crime.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has traveled regularly to China and has appointed envoys to handle expanding economic, political and cultural ties. Chinese families have long played a major role in the Philippine economy. Trade between the nations goes back centuries.

On this trip, the Chinese defense minister met senior officials including President Arroyo and Philippine defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro. He also visited Cebu where the armed forces command for the central Philippines is based.

The Chinese defense minister wraps up his Philippine visit on September 6.

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