Military ties in focus before summit

Updated: 2013-05-29 02:28

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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China and the United States pledged on Tuesday to boost military ties during a visit to Beijing by a senior US official in preparation for a summit in June between the two countries' top leaders.

Experts said that military relations between the world's two largest economies have been warming up recently. Washington has gradually realized the importance of the relations to achieve regional stability as it carries out its Asia-Pacific "pivot" policy, they added.

Military ties in focus before summit

General Fan Changlong (center right), vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, and other Chinese officials meet US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon (center left) and his delegation in Beijing on Tuesday. Song Jihe / China News Service

"Both countries' defense departments and militaries should strengthen communication and cooperation," Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, told Tom Donilon, US national security adviser.

Donilon was on the last day of a three-day trip ahead of the planned meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama on June 7 and 8 in California.

The top task for the two militaries is now to implement their leaders' consensus to improve military ties, said Fan. This means building a new type of military relationship that is free of a zero-sum mindset and that is in accordance with the development of overall relations, he said.

Donilon called for both countries to improve strategic communication and cooperation in "non-traditional security challenges", including peacekeeping, disaster relief operations and actions against piracy, to reduce differences, avoid misjudgment and jointly address regional security problems.

'Important stage'

"An essential part of building a new model for relations between great powers is ensuring we have a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship," Donilon said.

During a meeting with Donilon on Monday, Xi said that Sino-US relations were at "an important stage connecting the past and the future".

However, building trust between the two militaries is regarded as one of the main challenges the two countries face in mending relations that have been troubled by issues that include trade disputes and allegations of Chinese cyberattacks, analysts said.

Steps to increase positive interactions between the two sides' militaries have been modest so far, including joint anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden and a project to simulate a response to natural disasters.

Mistrust lingers

Fan Jishe, a US studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the mistrust between Beijing and Washington will likely not be resolved overnight.

The US has repeatedly questioned the purpose of China's military modernization, while China is concerned about Washington's new focus on military alliances in Asia and its plans to redeploy more weaponry and troops to the Asia-Pacific region.

Through regular and intensified exchanges, Washington aims to know more about the changes in the Chinese military and reduce tension in Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Tensions increased in part by Washington's backing of its allies Tokyo and Manila, which have territorial disputes with China, during Obama's first term, he said.

Shen Yamei, a researcher on US studies with the China Institute of International Studies, said the two militaries have engaged in high-level contacts to boost ties and that cooperation projects in non-traditional security areas are a relatively easy way for both sides to start deepening interactions.

No country can handle such threats, which seldom involve sensitive issues such as sovereignty and territory, alone, she said.