China, US militaries bolster ties

Updated: 2013-08-20 10:49

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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 China, US militaries bolster ties

Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan at the Pentagon in Washington on Monday to meet with his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Chen Weihua / China Daily

Chinese and US militaries have agreed to further strengthen cooperation and exchanges to boost mutual trust and understanding and avoid possible miscalculations and unintended conflicts.

China's Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan, who is leading a military delegation on a four-day visit to the US, said he and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have reached a five-point consensus to expand cooperation and exchanges after their "candid and in-depth" talk on Monday morning on bilateral military, regional and global issues.

Both sides recognized that a bilateral military-to-military relationship is an important part of the overall relationship between the two nations, Chang said.

"The development of a bilateral military relationship is gaining momentum at the moment," he told a joint news conference with Hagel on Monday after their talk.

"One of the things we have decided today is that a sustained and substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar to strong bilateral relationship," said Hagel.

Chang said both sides agreed to earnestly implement the consensus reached by the presidents of the two nations to strengthen a bilateral military relationship and take it to a new level.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama vowed to build a new type of major country relationship when they met in Sunnylands, California, in early June.

On Monday Chang called for building a new type of bilateral military relationship, which he said should be based on mutual respect instead of domination by one side, as well as mutual trust instead of mutual suspicion.

The new type of relationship should seek cooperation and a win-win outcome instead of a zero sum confrontation. It should be inclusive and not exclusive, according to Chang.

Jonathan Pollack, director of the John L Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, said the bilateral military relationship must be a central component of long-term Sino-American ties. Clarifying how the two militaries view these possibilities should be a central task during Minister Chang's visit. If the two defense leaders do not advance this process, the opportunity to curtail the possibilities of strategic rivalry will be lost. Without mutual restraint, a new type of major power relations will not truly develop.

The Monday talk between the two defense chiefs was previously scheduled for 90 minutes, but was extended, keeping the press waiting in the briefing room for another hour and a half.

"We just finished a very productive meeting. We stated that the United States is committed to building a positive and constructive relationship with China," said Hagel, adding that the China US relationship is important for stability and security in the Asia Pacific and achieving security and prosperity for the two nations in the 21st century.

China and the US will continue to strengthen high-level military visits, deepen the consultation and dialogue to build up mutual trust, according to Chang, who was greeted by Hagel, along with a military honor guard and marching band at a welcome ceremony early Monday morning outside the Pentagon's entrance facing the Washington Monument across the Potomac River.

During the Monday talk, Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff who visited China in April, extended an invitation to his Chinese counterpart, General Fang Fenghui, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) to visit the US in 2014.

Meanwhile, China has invited Hagel and Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert to visit China in 2014, an invitation Hagel said he "enthusiastically accepted". Hagel and Chang took their current posts respectively in February and March of this year.

The two militaries have stepped up their high-level visits in recent years. Wu Shengli, commander in chief of the PLA Navy, is scheduled to visit the US next month, while General Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the US Army, and General Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the US Air Force, will visit China later this year.

Chang, who ends his trip on Tuesday, visited the Pacific Command in Hawaii on Friday and met with Admiral Samuel Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command. On Saturday, he traveled to Colorado and met with Charles Jacoby Jr, commander of the US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) headquartered in Colorado Springs.

Chang said that he and Hagel agreed to set up a communication mechanism between the strategic and policy planning departments of the two militaries. They have also agreed to use existing mechanisms, such as defense consultative talks and military maritime consultative agreements, to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and to continue discussion on the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities, something that was mentioned in the outcome document of the fifth round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Washington last month.

"I welcome this discussion and noticed that the transparency we had is important to reducing the miscalculation and avoiding unintended tensions and conflicts. Our staffs are exploring those initiatives and we will continue to discuss the issue," said Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Hagel said he and Chang both welcome the recent establishment of the US-China cyber working group to address an issue of growing concern to both nations.

The US has accused the Chinese government and military of involvement in cyber attacks against US targets, an allegation China has denied. China claimed it is a main victim of cyber attacks.

"The Chinese military has never supported any cyber hacking," Chang said.

He said the two sides have recognized that the two militaries shoulder an increasingly heavy responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Both have agreed to play a constructive role in regional issues and promote positive interactions between the two militaries, and both have agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the framework of Asia-Pacific multilateral security dialogue," said the 64-year-old career military official.

He said the Chinese military will participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 2014, an invitation extended by then US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when he visited China last September.

In the non-traditional security areas, the two militaries have agreed that they have a great potential for cooperation. These include humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and peacekeeping.

In November, the two militaries will for the first time hold their first humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise with an active force in Hawaii.

"Today our military maritime consultative agreement working group is meeting in Hawaii to discuss humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This weekend our navies will conduct another counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden," said Hagel.

According to Chang, the two militaries also agreed to bolster their military archival cooperation, including expanding the cooperation on Chinese assistance in finding US military personnel missing in action.

(China Daily USA 08/20/2013 page1)