From DC to Pearl, China-US military ties deepen

Updated: 2013-09-09 10:55

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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From DC to Pearl, China-US military ties deepen

A Chinese naval officer introduces the Chinese missile destroyer Qingdao to American counterparts on Saturday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A Chinese fleet including Qingdao, a frigate, and a supply ship is visiting the US and will take part in joint search and rescue drills with the US navy on Monday. Zha Chuming / Xinhua

Wu Shengli, commander-in-chief of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, started his visit to the US over the weekend, an indication of increasing high-level military visits between the two countries.

The trip came only about three weeks after the visit to the US by China's new Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan, who toured both the Pacific Command in Hawaii and the Northern Command in Colorado, before winding up at the Pentagon.

Speaking at the Washington DC-based think tank American Enterprise Institute on Thursday morning, Admiral Jon Greenert, chief of US naval operations, said he is looking forward to meeting Wu as "we continue our military-to-military relationship, evolving and maturing that relationship".

Shortly before Wu's arrival, three Chinese navy ships pulled into Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Friday for a search-and-rescue exercise with the US Navy.

The three ships - Qingdao, a luhu-class destroyer; Linyi, a Jiangkai-class frigate; and Hongzehu, a Fuqing-class fleet oiler - are carrying a helicopter and 680 officers and sailors. They were welcomed with performances by lion dancers and a children's hula group, the local Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The drill will start on Monday with the USS Lake Erie in the waters off Waikiki and Diamond Head.

"This port visit is part of the US Navy's ongoing efforts to maximize opportunities for developing relationships with foreign navies as a tool to build trust, encourage multilateral cooperation, enhance transparency, and avoid miscalculation in the Pacific," the Navy said in a news release.

It was the first such port visit by the Chinese navy in seven years, when Qingdao and Hongzehu stopped at Pearl Harbor and San Diego for communications drills and search-and-rescue exercises.

The joint drill also comes less than two weeks after the Chinese destroyer Harbin and auxiliary replenishment oiler Weishanhu joined the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason for a two-day joint anti-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden. The two nations also held a joint anti-piracy exercise off Somalia in 2012.

A more attention-grabbing bilateral military cooperation will take place next year when the Chinese navy participates in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world's largest naval drill, for the first time.

Former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta extended the invitation during his visit to China last September.

"I want to explore the opportunity of maybe doing a combined operation," Greenert said last Thursday.

At a joint news conference last month at the Pentagon, both Chinese Defense Minister Chang and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said they agreed to continue to strengthen high-level military visits and deepen consultation and dialogue to build up mutual trust.

During Chang's visit, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who visited China in April, extended an invitation to his Chinese counterpart, General Fang Fenghui, chief of the General Staff of the PLA, to visit the US in 2014.

At the same time, China has invited Hagel and Greenert to visit China in 2014, an invitation Hagel said he "enthusiastically accepted".

Chang also said at the news conference that 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.

During the meeting, the two defense chiefs also 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.

(China Daily USA 09/09/2013 page1)