Op-Ed Contributors

Warming defense ties with US

Updated: 2011-05-18 07:46

By Yao Yunzhu (China Daily)

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Taiwan is definitely part of China's core interest. The repeated US arms sales to Taiwan has been the single most important cause of distrust in Sino-US military ties. While some voices in the US are calling for a review of the arms sales policy, some Americans have also suggested that the F-16 A/B fighters in Taiwan be upgraded to the C/D models - or a new batch of F-16 C/D fighters be sold to Taiwan. But any further arms sale will continue to be an impediment to stable military ties.

To reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions, regular communication is indispensable. Currently, the two militaries meet and consult in various channels and at different levels. At the national level, the newly established SSD has institutionalized dialogue on extensive security issues of common concern. At the ministerial level, the Defense Consultative Talks and the Defense Policy Coordination Talks provide platforms for regular meetings of high-level officials.

The Military Maritime Consultative Agreement represents a working level forum for discussing maritime security issues. And institutionalized exchanges have been set up between military academies such as that between the two national defense universities and army academies.

Besides, the PLA has reached out to the outside world by gradually opening up its headquarters, units, equipment and installations to foreign visitors. In most cases, they were first opened to American visitors. But the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the US Congress in 1999, is still in effect. The NDAA has listed 12 areas in which exchanges with the PLA are restricted. In the PLA's view, such legal restrictions prohibit military exchanges on an equal footing and reduce the motivation for a more institutionalized relationship.

The Asia-Pacific region and the rest of world expect Chinese and US militaries to cooperate for peace and stability, which is in the interest of the two countries as well. To develop the habit of working together, a win-win mindset has to replace the zero-sum mindset.

The American leaders have repeated on many occasions that China is neither a threat nor an enemy. So, as cooperative partners, they should stop air and maritime surveillance and reconnaissance against China. It is hard for the Chinese leadership, the PLA and the public to understand why such antagonistic US activities should continue when cooperation is so much more important.

China and the US have been developing military ties for nearly 40 years. An old Chinese saying goes: You will not be bewildered at the age of 40, meaning maturity ensures wise and sensible decisions. It is hoped that General Chen's visit to the US would turn a new page in the history of China-US military relations.

The author is a major-general and senior research scholar with the Academy of Military Science of the PLA.

(China Daily 05/18/2011 page9)

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