THE Obama Administration has appealed to China to provide training and military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat.
The proposal is part of a push to enlist key allies of Pakistan to stabilise the country, US officials said.
The US is trying to persuade Pakistan to step up efforts against militants, while supporting the fragile civilian Government and its tottering economy.
Richard Holbrooke, the Administration's special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, has visited China and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks as part of the effort.
The appeal underscores China's importance in security issues. Beijing traditionally has been reluctant to intervene in other countries' affairs. But Chinese officials are concerned about the militant threat to its west, fearing it could destabilise the region and threaten China's economic presence in Pakistan.
US officials believe China is skilled at counterinsurgency, a holdover from the long civil war that led to the Communist victory in 1949. And with Beijing's strong military ties to Pakistan, US officials hope China could help craft a more sophisticated strategy than Pakistan's heavy-handed approach.
The Pakistani military has used artillery and aircraft against Taliban extremists in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas. "They're very focused on hardware," a US official said. But the fighting has forced more than 2 million civilians to flee and UN officials fear a humanitarian crisis.
The tide of displaced persons could set off a backlash among ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom already see the fight as driven by American, rather than Pakistani, interests.
China's strategic alliance with Pakistan reaches back to the 1960s. China has sold Pakistan billions of dollars worth of military equipment, including missiles, warships and tanks.
It also maintains a huge economic presence in Pakistan. China's ambassador Luo Zhaohui said in a speech earlier this month that 10,000 Chinese engineers and technicians work in the country.
Beijing is increasingly concerned about the Pakistani insurgency, in part because Muslim separatists from its own north-western region have trained in Pakistani camps.
Officials are also concerned at recurrent kidnappings and killings of Chinese workers. China repeatedly has pressed Pakistan to protect its citizens.
Analysts say that the Pakistani Government launched an attack on militants controlling the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007 in part because of pressure from China for the release of its workers, who had been kidnapped by militants. More than 100 people died and Islamic militants say it represented a turning point in their struggle.
Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, acknowledged the long alliance, saying that "Chinese support and co-operation have been crucial for Pakistan at many difficult times in our history".
In Washington, Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation think tank said it would be difficult to persuade China to assume any military role. But she said they were concerned about the spillover effects of the insurgency.
"The Chinese may try to deal with this privately," she said. "They won't want to make any public statements that might embarrass the Pakistanis."
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