China’s president appears unaware of the military action until the U.S. Defense Secretary Gates mentions it, a U.S. official says. Hu says the test had been planned earlier and hadn’t been timed to coincide with Gates’ visit.
China’s military conducted the first flight test of an experimental stealth fighter Tuesday, apparently without informing the country’s civilian leadership in advance and only hours before Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with the Chinese president to discuss improving military ties.
The test flight of the J-20 fighter seemed to represent a snub of Gates from China’s military establishment during his three-day visit to Beijing and to deepen questions about how much control its civilian leadership exercises over the armed forces, which have often taken a harder line on improving relations with the U.S.
When Gates mentioned the test in an afternoon meeting with President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People, it was initially clear that neither Hu nor any of the other Chinese civilian officials present were aware that it had occurred, according to a senior U.S. Defense Department official.