Speaking with Chinese media based in Washington, Cai Yingting, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, stressed the importance of China's military-to-military relationship with the United States for boosting pragmatic cooperation in various spheres, the China Daily reported Monday.
Cai, who led a high-level military delegation to Washington on a weeklong visit, told the Chinese media the military relationship has been frayed by issues such as the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Cai's visit to Washington came amid rising tensions over China's claims of sovereignty in the South Sea, the China-Japan dispute over a group of uninhabited islands and the U.S. anti-missile defense system in Asia.
The China-Japan island dispute, which could draw the United States, escalated sharply this month as activists from China and Japan landed on one of the islands to assert their country's claims, triggering diplomatic protests and ongoing demonstrations in China.
China Daily reported that in his meetings with senior U.S. military and government officials, Cai and military officials stressed China's strong opposition against the 1960 U.S.-Japan treaty being applied to the island dispute. Under the treaty, the United States would be bound to come to the aid of Japan if the latter's territories come under attack.
The delegation, which said the disputed islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu by the Chinese, have been part of Chinese territory, urged the United States to do more to safeguard peace in the Asia-Pacific region, China Daily reported.
Cai said U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to visit China in September, and that China is "making serious preparations" to make the Panetta trip fruitful, the newspaper said.
On the anti-missile defense issue, the Chinese military has urged the United States to handle it with great discretion and avoid "letting its own state security take priority over other countries' national security," the report said.
China Daily cited a Wall Street Journal report that the Pentagon plans to place a second X-Band early-warning radar in southern Japan, in addition to the one Japan placed in 2006 and evaluating sites in Southeast Asia for a third radar.
However, in her media briefing last week, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the missile defense work is "not directed at China" but "reflects concerns about the missile threat from North Korea."
She said these are defensive systems "and that we are quite open and transparent about what it is that we're doing and why."
Nuland said the systems don't engage unless missiles have been fired.
"And in the case of the Asian systems, they are designed to defend against a missile threat from North Korea. They are not directed at China," she said, adding the United States has broad dialogue with China, both through the military and political channels, about the intention of these systems.