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US defends arms sales to Taiwan

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WASHINGTON (AFP): US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has defended US arms sales to Taipei, citing China's “extraordinary” deployment of cruise and ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan.

Both Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged concern over China's suspension of military contacts with the United States because of the arms sales.

But the secretary said the US arms sales were in keeping with the Taiwan Relations Act, and suggested the improvement in relations between Beijing and Taipei had not diminished the need for them.

“We certainly applaud the growing links between Taiwan and the Peoples Republic,” he said on Thursday.

“Another piece of that is the extraordinary Chinese deployment of all manner of cruise and ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan on the Chinese side of the strait,” he added.

“So that's a reality that goes along with the growing other links between the two.”

Gates was pressed on the question by Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat of California, who was in China last week and said that in meetings with Chinese leaders she was told they had offered to “redeploy” forces threatening to Taiwan.

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