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China, US Hold Defense Talks, Plan More


Chinese and U.S. officials say the two countries share a common concern over a nuclear-weapons armed North Korea and both countries say they want to avoid confrontations at sea. These were among the issues discussed in two days of high level defense talks that ended in Beijing. Under Secretary for Defense Michele Flournoy headed the U.S. delegation.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, she said both countries share concern about what she described as North Korea's recent "provocative actions," and discussed the North Korean nuclear issue in general.

She said the two sides did not specifically discuss a North Korean ship off the coast of China that is allegedly carrying small arms to Burma. If verified, this would be in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that was recently imposed on Pyongyang after it conducted its second nuclear test at the end of May.

"This was not the appropriate forum to have detailed operational level discussions about how enforcement of this U.N. Security Council resolution was going to go," Flournoy said.

Serious concerns about North Korea

The head of the Chinese side, Lieutenant-General Ma Xiaotian, said his country has "serious concerns" about a nuclear North Korea. But he urged all parties to keep negotiating.

Ma says he is confident the U.S.-China military relationship will continue to strengthen in the future.

Ma says he believes military ties will continue to make progress despite all the difficulties.

One recent issue has been a series of encounters between U.S. and Chinese ships in waters off China's coast that Beijing claims are within its so-called exclusive economic zone. The Pentagon has said the U.S. ships involved were operating in accordance with international law.

U.S. and Chinese military officials will hold special consultations in July, to address the sea confrontation issue.

Tension over Taiwan arms sale

The two sides also discussed shared interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and with international anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.

The just-concluded defense talks resumed after an 18-month hiatus. China suspended the meetings last year, after the Bush administration announced a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Taiwan, a separately governed island that Beijing considers a renegade province.

Under Secretary Flournoy said the Obama administration "inherited" the arms-sale to Taiwan and is in the process of deciding how it plans to proceed.

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