Trip reflects militaries' will to seek closer ties

Updated: 2014-05-13 03:41

By ZHAO SHENGNAN in Beijing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington (China Daily)

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Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, will start his first trip to the United States on Tuesday, as a guest of Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff.

The visit is a chance for Dempsey to repay the hospitality he received in China in April 2013, as reciprocation is one of the main focuses of Fang's trip, according to the itinerary disclosed by the Pentagon.

The visit comes amid heightened maritime tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, but observers said the carefully choreographed schedule will highlight both countries' willingness for closer cooperation following US President Barack Obama's recent Asian tour.

In San Diego, his first stop, Fang will be hosted by the US 3rd Fleet, tour the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and combat ship USS Coronado. He will also visit the US Marine Corps recruit depot there, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Fang and Dempsey will meet on Thursday at the Pentagon where the Chinese general's arrival will be greeted with full military honors, the Pentagon's press secretary John Kirby said.

When Dempsey visited China last year, he met President Xi Jinping and Fang, toured an army aviation regiment, talked to senior officers at the National Defense University and delivered a speech at the Army Aviation Academy.

Fang will also visit the US Army Forces Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before ending his tour in New York, Kirby added. It will be the first time the headquarters has received a Chinese officer.

"General Dempsey looks forward to the opportunity to meet again with Fang and to continue their conversation on improving our military-to-military relationship with China," Kirby said.

Zhao Weibin, a researcher at the Center for China-US Defense Relations at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the visit comes at a good time, as it will signal confidence in the two militaries' relationship and weaken those who attempt to play up "Chinese threats".

The visit comes a month after US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's first visit to China and weeks after Obama's trip to the region.

"Fang will seek more understanding from Washington by making clear China's sincerity on cooperation and its determination to safeguard its core interests," Zhao said.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said signing agreements on notification of major military activity at sea and maritime safety are the highest priorities for the two militaries.

Zhu Chenghu, dean of the Defense Affairs Institute at the National Defense University, said both countries should hold more regular military exchanges.

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