China to develop military ties with S Asian neighbours

Colombo: China has said that it attaches "great importance" to developing military relations with its South Asian neighbours, but sought to assure that these were not targeted at any "third party".

Winding up a five-day visit to Sri Lanka, Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie claimed that these close military ties were intended for "maintaining regional security and stability and not targeted at any third party".

His remarks come in the backdrop of concerns voiced in Washington and New Delhi over Chinese intentions of stepping up military assistance and ties with countries in the Indian Ocean and Africa.

Liang`s visit to the island nation in the course of which he held meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and commanders of three services comes as Colombo sought Chinese assistance to improve military infrastructure in the country`s north and east where its forces battled Tamil insurgency for decades.

Lankan officials said the visit during which China announced new grants to build and modernise Sri Lankan military training establishment had led to "closer cooperation" between the two nations.

While admitting that China was taking steps to modernise its armed forces, Liang said Beijing wanted to make greater contributions towards peace as a responsible member of the international community, according to excerpts of his speech carried by official Xinhua news agency.

Responding strongly to Western criticism that China indulged in hidden defence spending, Liang said Beijing`s defence expenditure was transparent and in years 2010-11 it spent only 1.4 per cent and 1.28 per cent of its GDP on defence which was very low when compared with developed countries.