China, U.S. Talk on New Hot Line
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and new Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie held their first conversation on the new defense telephone link (DTL) set up this month.
"Secretary Gates congratulated General Liang on his recent promotion to minister of defense and welcomed this important step forward in enhancing communications between our militaries," said Maj. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. "Secretary Gates and Minister Liang discussed building on the positive momentum in military-to-military relations, encouraging the trend of greater transparency at all levels in which substantive dialogue can help avoid miscalculation."
U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to establish the link during their meeting at the 15th APEC summit last September. Discussions continued during Gates' November visit to Beijing.
On Feb. 29, an agreement establishing the DTL was signed in Shanghai. David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asian security affairs, signed for the U.S., and Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, director of the Ministry of National Defense, Foreign Affairs Office, signed for China.
During the conversation, Gates urged China to seize the opportunity to work with the newly elected leaders on Taiwan, said Upton.
The Beijing-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took control of both the legislature and the presidency during recent elections in Taiwan. The KMT has called for closer relations with China, including direct flights and a peace accord.
"[Gates] restated the U.S. commitment to the one-China policy, which is based on the three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. He also restated that the U.S. opposes any unilateral effort by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo," Upton said.
According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, Liang called on the United States to stop arms sales and military links with Taiwan "in a bid to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and the overall interests of the Sino-U.S. relations."
A former U.S. defense official said the DTL was largely symbolic, since an executive-level hot line already existed between the White House and Zhongnanhai, the Beijing facility that serves as the Communist Party headquarters.