US, China say no change in military ties

Updated: 2015-01-30 11:37

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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 US, China say no change in military ties

From left: Former US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright testify before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday about global challenges and US national security strategy.  Chen Weihua / China Daily

The US Defense Department and the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday that US policy and military-to-military engagement strategy with China has not changed, contrary to a media report that said the Pentagon wouldn't agree to a major new military exchange until the two countries can agree on rules for airborne encounters between their warplanes.

"Our military-to-military ties with China have sustained positive momentum, and are beginning to demonstrate positive outcomes. Our actions speak for themselves," Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Pool told China Daily on Thursday.

He noted that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey will host Rear Admiral Li Ji, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Foreign Affairs Office, in the Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT) at the Pentagon on Feb 5.

Pool's comments were in response to a story in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday under the headline "US Pauses New China Exchanges". The story did not cite sources for its report or contain comment from the Pentagon. The story said the delay does not affect existing military-to-military exchanges.

In Beijing, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Yang Yujun described the newspaper report as "unbelievable".

The Journal did not immediately respond to a request for comment from China Daily USA.

The newspaper story cited Randy Forbes, a Republican congressman from Virginia ,who leads a House subcommittee on sea power, as having said that the Pentagon has pushed the military exchanges without clearly saying what they hope to achieve.

The newspaper quoted Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth as saying in a letter to Forbes that "US policy toward China is based on the premise that it is profoundly in both countries' interest that we develop a cooperative relationship that brings a rising China into that system while constructively managing the differences between our two countries."

Yang, China's National Defense spokesman, told a briefing on Thursday that the two countries achieved positive results in 2014 in building a new type of military-to-military relationship compatible with the new type of major-country relationship, citing new progress of increasing high-level exchange of visit, joint training and exercises and other exchange programs.

During US President Barack Obama's visit to Beijing last November, the two countries signed memorandums of understanding on establishing confidence-building mechanisms, including air and sea encounters and notification of major military activities. Yang described the two MOUs as a "new highlight in the China-US bilateral military ties".

He said such good momentum has been maintained this year, citing the joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training conducted in Guangzhou and Haikou and the 10th Disaster Management Exchange from Jan 12-19 as witnessed by General Vincent Brooks, commanding general of US Army Pacific.

US Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers also visited China from Jan 25-28.

During the visit, Vickers told Chinese military leaders that the establishment of new type of military-to-military relationship between US and China is a good thing for bilateral relations, according to Yang.

Yang also quoted Vickers as saying that both sides are expected to honestly implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries.

Vickers also told Chinese military leaders that both sides should maintain high-level dialogues and promote pragmatic cooperation so as to jointly maintain strategic stability, according to Yang.

Last summer, China for the first time participated in the US-led 22-nation Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world's largest naval war game.

"In the new year, China is willing to work together with the US to further implement the consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and push forward the healthy and stable military-to-military relationship," Yang said.

Despite warming up in military exchanges in recent years, tensions still exist.

Many Chinese feel growing US military presence in East Asia under its pivot to Asia Pacific strategy is aimed at China, while many in the US are concerned about China's growing military capability and active role in the region.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior advisor for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on Thursday that the US military relationship with China has made some progress and will continue to do so in 2015, in spite of the Wall Street Journal report .that military exchanges are on hold.

"And that is not true," Glaser said, adding that there are some very important exchanges that are on the agenda. "I think Xi Jinping remained very invested in this bilateral military relationship."