Chinese admiral to visit the US

Updated: 2013-07-22 11:18

By Chen Weihua in Washington and Zhao Yanrong in Beijing (China Daily)

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Joint naval exercise reflects improvement in military ties

China will send its senior naval commander to visit the US in September ahead of next year's Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, which will involve naval forces from both countries, a senior US officer said.

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of US Naval Operations, said at the Pentagon on Friday that he looks forward to greeting his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli in September.

He also said China will join the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercises, which he said could be bigger than the last one, which involved 22 nations.

The large-scale exercise has long excluded China, the major nation in the Asia-Pacific, which is often seen as a target instead, experts said. The inclusion of China in the exercise is seen by experts as part of an ongoing improvement in military ties between the two nations.

Greenert said the US and China have participated a number of recent bilateral military exchanges, including the ASEAN disaster relief and humanitarian assistance exercises hosted by Brunei last month.

The two countries have agreed that they need to establish protocols at sea that will make both comfortable, as well as improving communication and cooperation where necessary, according to Greenert, commander of the US Seventh Fleet from 2004 to 2006.

"We are going to share insights on things," He said. "And we've got to eliminate miscalculation."

Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan is expected to visit the US in August, before Wu's scheduled visit, US media quoted US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as saying.

This follows a trip to China in April by General Martin Dempsey, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Meanwhile, Hagel is expected to pay a return visit to China in 2014, according to the outcome document of the fifth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Washington a week ago.

The S&ED outcome document also says the two nations are committed to strengthening their military-to-military relationship.

Both have decided to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and to continue discussions on the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities.

Senior military officials also attended the dialogue.

Both countries have sent out positive signals in the past year regarding military cooperation, including a pledge by President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, California, early last month to boost exchanges.

On July 16, Vice-Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, dismissed claims of a cold war between China and the US and emphasized the friendly relationship that is developing.

US media reported last week that the US has agreed to let Chinese naval vessels make port calls at US naval bases.

Pan Zheng, a military scholar with the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, said the US invitation to China to join the Rim of the Pacific exercises is of great symbolic importance in bilateral military ties.

"However, it is just the start, which does not mean substantial progress in that regard," he said.

Shen Dingli, vice-dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai, said such incremental improvement could be significant.

But he cautioned that the foundation is still fragile.

"The Obama administration is still likely to sell arms to Taiwan during his remaining more than three years in office," Shen told Shanghai's Wenhui Daily. "If the US takes such a step, it would deal a heavy blow to bilateral military cooperation."

US arms sales to Taiwan in the past have resulted in suspensions of military exchanges between China and the US.

While applauding the progress, Shen pointed out that obstacles still exist. "From Chinese side, (it is) anything the US government and military will do to impair China's sovereign rights and economic rights," Shen said, adding that these include the issues such as Taiwan and territorial disputes in South China Sea.

He said from the US side, anything China will do to challenge the US dominance in East Asia will regarded an obstacle.

Writing in China Daily last month, Yao Yunzhu, a major general and director of the Center on China-America Defense Relations at the Chinese Academy of Military Science, called for greater efforts to address the trust deficit between the two militaries.

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(China Daily USA 07/22/2013 page1)