U.S., China military leaders to meet

May 7, 2012 at 12:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) -- Talks between U.S. and Chinese defense chiefs in Washington could help ease tensions between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea, analysts said.

Liang Guanglie is scheduled to meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Monday in Washington.

The maritime issue is expected to be discussed when the two defense ministers meet, China Daily reported.

The Philippine government has asked China to agree to take the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for arbitration and urged other countries to consider similar actions. Several countries have conflicting claims to oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea. China and Taiwan claim nearly all of the South China Sea while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam exert claims on parts near their shores.

Walter Lohman, Asian Studies Center director at The Heritage Foundation, told China Daily maintaining a positive relationship with China was important for resolving the South China Sea issue.

"A response to the challenge the Chinese are presenting in the South China Sea requires clear priorities," he said. "Positive U.S.-China relations are an important context, not an 'interest' in and of themselves. The intersection of U.S. and Chinese interests in the region and beyond is very narrow."

Michael Swaine, Chinese security expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the countries' militaries are "becoming increasingly entrenched" in their views concerning each other's motives, which complicates overall U.S.-China relations.

"There is a strong need to bring that military relationship into line with the larger objectives," Swaine told China Daily. "We need to establish a long-term program to improve the relationship, not just dialogue, not just visits, but actual military activities with other countries in the [Asia-Pacific] region."

Working toward that goal is essential "for both countries to get away from the current zero-sum mindset that is operating in the two militaries," he said.

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