Friday, January 14, 2011

US critical of China test of fighter jet

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates today said that China's revelation during his visit this week of a combat jet's flight test pointed to "a disconnect" between its military and civilian leaders.

Gates was speaking in Japan during a week-long Asia tour focused on the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea and the increasing military assertiveness in the region of Pyongyang's only major ally China.

The US defence chief stressed that China's President Hu Jintao, whom he met on Tuesday, was "in command and in charge" but also said there were signs that civilian leaders had been unaware of the J-20 jet's test flight.

When Gates met Hu and other top officials on Tuesday, Chinese state media published photos that were said to show the debut flight of the J-20, the country's first radar-evading combat aircraft.
The timing of the stealth fighter's flight appeared to be a snub to Washington, fuelling the sense of a military rivalry despite positive statements from both governments during the four-day visit.

But Gates said today that, in his meeting with Chinese civilian leaders, there were "pretty clear indications they were unaware of the flight test".

Gates, speaking at Tokyo's Keio University, said "this is an area where over the last several years we have seen some signs of, I guess I would call it a disconnect between the military and the civilian leadership".

China's government leaders had also appeared to be initially unaware of aggressive actions taken by their naval vessels against a US Navy surveillance ship in 2009, and of an anti-satellite test in recent years, Gates said.

Gates -- who later took off on a flight to South Korea -- renewed his warnings about China's latest weaponry, which he said presented a possible threat to the US military's long-running presence in the Pacific.