HANOI - China is willing to help establish a regional "security mechanism" which defense ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations and regional powers including China, India and Japan will discuss on Tuesday, China's defense chief said on Sunday.
"China would like to actively get involved in the building of a relevant security mechanism ... to contribute to regional peace and stability," Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told Nong Duc Manh, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee.
The meeting in Hanoi is the first security session of all ASEAN members and eight other countries: China, Australia, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
A maritime-safety plan could be one area of cooperation, Japanese media, citing a draft statement, said.
Ma Zhengang, director of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said a peaceful region is one of China's aims, and the country is willing to discuss how to achieve this with neighboring countries.
"So far there is no settled framework for security cooperation in the region due to the complicated situation here with so many countries and so many interests and concerns," Ma said.
"But China welcomes a fair security mechanism," he said. "That goes in line with China's demand for a peaceful environment to enable continuous prosperity."
Liang also told Manh during their talks that the Chinese military wants deeper mutual trust and more substantial cooperation with the armed forces of Vietnam, which has disputed Chinese territory in the South China Sea in recent months.
Vietnam's Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh said the meeting would try to identify common interests and avoid becoming "a place for a war of words".
China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei all have competing claims in the South China Sea.
China has long insisted that the South China Sea issue should be dealt with on a bilateral level as it is not a problem between China and the ASEAN.
Liang on Sunday also met his Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh. No details of the meeting were available.
The high-level military delegation accompanying Liang included the commander of the Guangzhou Military Area Command and political commissar of the South China Sea Fleet, two military divisions that guard Chinese land and maritime territory bordering Vietnam.
Zhai Dequan, a colleague of the disarmament association's Ma, said the meeting is a good chance for China and Vietnam to discuss partnership in areas of mutual interest.
The two countries have more things in common than differences, Zhai said.
Liang is also scheduled to meet US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday, the first meeting since military ties between the two countries cooled at the beginning of the year after the US unveiled a $6.4-billion arms sale to Taiwan.
Liang's agenda on Tuesday includes talks with counterparts from the Republic of Korea, Australia and Laos.
Japan's Kyodo News Agency said the defense ministers of China and Japan will meet on Monday, the first time since China cut high-level exchanges after Japan illegally detained a Chinese boat captain and members of his crew near the Diaoyu Islands last month. China Daily has been told that the meeting has yet to be confirmed.
Ma Liyao contributed to this story.