Chinese Leaders Surprised by Fighter Test During Gates Visit

U.S. Secretary of Defense was apparently surprised to learn during a meeting with President Hu Jintao that China’s civilian leaders were not informed of a test flight of China’s new stealth fighter jet, VOA reports:

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when Secretary Gates asked about the test during a meeting with President Hu Tuesday afternoon, “it was clear that none of the civilians in the room had been informed.” President Hu is a civilian, and he is also chairman of the country’s Central Military Commission.

Secretary Gates did not mention President Hu’s surprise, but he did talk to reporters of his concerns about a possible disconnect between China’s civilian and military leaders, and the possibility that the Chinese military sometimes acts independently.

“I’ve had concerns about this over time and frankly it’s one of the reasons I attach importance to a dialogue between the two sides that includes both civilians and militaries,” Gates said.

During this visit, Gates proposed a bilateral civilian-military strategic dialogue, but Chinese officials only promised to study the idea. Gates said he hopes to reach agreement on the dialogue during the first half of the year.

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