U.S., China agree to improve bilateral military ties

Aug. 21, 2013 at 1:43 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The United States and China agreed to improve their military relations, but some experts say Washington is cautious not to complicate ties with its allies.

The experts, speaking to China Daily, were commenting on the announcement Monday by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and visiting Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan that their countries will take a series of steps to improve military-to-military relations.

Chang, a general, is leading a military delegation on a four-day visit to the United States. Chang and Hagel discussed a broad range of issues, including the rebalancing of U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region and bilateral military-to-military relations, the U.S. Defense Department said on its website.

Later, Hagel and Chang told reporters that close U.S.-China relations will provide stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

China Daily Wednesday quoted the experts as saying that despite China's attempts to overcome its past sense of rivalry with the United States, Washington remains reluctant to redefine bilateral ties as a "new type of military relationship."

Zhao Xiaozhuo at the Chinese military's Academy of Military Science said Washington has doubts about readjusting military ties with Beijing because it might complicate relations with its allies, the report said.

"Chang's visit is still mainly discussing principles with the Pentagon," he said.

The U.S. Defense Department quoted Hagel as saying the Chinese visit is "fundamental to develop relationships, avenues of opportunity for transparency, for understanding each other's intentions far better than we have in the past."

He also said United States "welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems."

Hagel and Chang also agreed to set up an exchange mechanism between the People's Liberation Army's strategic planning department and the Joint Staff's strategic, plans and policy directorate.

Jonathan Pollack, director of the China Center at the Brookings Institution, told China Daily if the two defense leaders do not advance the process, the opportunity to curtail the possibilities of strategic rivalry will be lost.

China Daily said the two sides will use existing means such as consultative talks and a maritime agreement to explore a notification mechanism for major military activities.

Xu Qiyu, a researcher at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, told China Daily the notification mechanism will strengthen "mutual trust and reduce miscalculation, and most important, lead to better coordination with each other in regional military activities."

China Daily said Chang also voiced concerns over the U.S. policy of rebalancing to Asia, saying he hoped the "strategy can bring peace to the Pacific region instead of seeking to weaken China."

It quoted other experts that the U.S. rebalancing is part of a strategy to curtail China's rise and that it has emboldened U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines to challenge China by breaking the status quo on some maritime territorial issues.

Hagel said the United States has invited the Chinese to attend next year's Rim of the Pacific multilateral naval exercise.

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