China confirmed it held its first test-flight of a stealth fighter jet on Tuesday, a show of muscle during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates aimed at defusing military tensions between the two big powers.
Gates said Chinese President Hu Jintao told him the maiden test-flight of the J-20 fighter jet prototype, which could eventually help narrow the military gap with the United States, was not timed to coincide with his visit.
“I asked President Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test,” Gates told reporters.
Asked whether he believed that, Gates said: “I take President Hu at his word that the test had nothing to do with my visit.”
A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hu and other civilian leaders at the meeting with Gates did not appear aware the J-20 test-flight had happened before the U.S. side pressed them about it.
“When Secretary Gates raised the question of the J-20 test in the meeting with President Hu, it was clear that none of the civilians in the room had been informed,” the official told reporters.