The chief of Britain's defence staff, Sir Neil Cameron, has come under heavy criticism for remarks he made during a visit to Chinese tank crews in Peking.
The chief of Britain's defence staff, Sir Neil Cameron, has come under heavy criticism for remarks he made during a visit to Chinese tank crews in Peking. Sir Neil told the Chinese soldiers that China and Britain had a common enemy, the Soviet Union. In London, some left-wing Labour Party politicians have called for Sir Neil to be sacked for his remarks. And the Soviet newspaper Pravda, described him as "a drunken hare -- a man lost his self-control and swaggered in front of Chinese officers shouting about the so-called Soviet threats".
SYNOPSIS: The British Defence Chief made the comments after watching Chinese tanks undergoing military manoeuvres and gunnery practice on the outskirts of Peking. He reviewed the tanks and their crews and later, at an official luncheon, made his controversial remarks. Thanking his hosts for their warm welcome, he said, there were men there with great spirit who would fight their tanks to the death if needed in the defence of China. He went onto say Britain and China should share their common experience so that they would be in best position to tackle the Soviet tank force if the necessity arose. Though his Chinese hosts applauded his comments they have met with growing criticism in Britain and the Soviet Union.
Though Sir Neil stressed that his comments were his own and did not reflect official British policy, the Soviet Union has indicated that it expects an official explanation. The Communist party newspaper Pravda has declared that Sir Neil represented the British government and made an incendiary speech that did not correspond to Soviet-British relations. In Britain, though labour politicians have called for his dismissal, Sir Neil has received some support from conservative politicians. Sir Ian Gilmour, Opposition defence spokesman described his remarks as sensible.
While on his visit to China, Sir Neil was accorded that unexpected pleasure of an audience with Chairman Hua Kuo-feng.
Though he is the most senior serving officer to visit China from a military member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO); it was previously thought that Sir Neil would only meet senior Chinese Defence officials, and Deputy Chief of Staff Yang Young. No details have been released about his meeting with Chairman Hua.