Fine twist in Sino-US military ties

Updated: 2014-06-26 07:34

By Zhang Junshe (China Daily)

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China is participating in the US-led 2014 Rim of Pacific military exercise for the first time since it started in 1971, indicating improved Sino-US military ties. Among the fleet of multiple nations taking part in the joint military exercise are four Chinese navy vessels - the Peace Ark hospital ship, Qiandaohu depot ship, Haikou missile destroyer and Yueyang frigate.

China and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1979, and since then their military ties have gone through several ups and downs. US arms sales to Taiwan, American surveillance planes flying close to the Chinese mainland and certain US laws and regulations that discriminate against China have often thwarted efforts to improve bilateral, especially military, relations. But what actually had been a stumbling block between the two powers is the lack of mutual strategic trust.

That situation changed after the meeting between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama in Sunnylands, California, in June last year. On the strategic front, Xi and Obama agreed that both sides would make efforts to forge a "new type of major-power relationship" based on "non-conflict and non-confrontation" as well as cooperation, and thus laid the foundation for better bilateral military ties.

It was at the Sunnylands meeting that the US invited China to participate in the 2014 Rim of Pacific joint military drill, highlighting the two countries' common aim of promoting mutual military relations. In many ways, Xi's visit to the US was a path-breaking event.

Traditionally, newcomers to the Rim of Pacific drill only participate as "observers" and do not take part in the operations. But the Chinese fleet will participate in not only disaster relief and diving operations, but also some core exercises like artillery firing, which used to be open only to close allies of the US.

Apart from the four navy vessels, China has also sent some shipboard helicopters, a special force unit and a diving team, making its participating fleet second only to the US in size.

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