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Pentagon leader says China ties to improve

2010-12-03 08:10

WASHINGTON / BEIJING - America's top military officer has said the resumption of military exchanges between the United States and China will renew prospects of strengthened military-to-military engagement.

"Now that both countries have agreed to resume routine contacts as part of this important (aspect) of our relationship, the hard work really begins," Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, on Tuesday.

"The United States stands ready to do our part."

Since early this year, military relations between the two countries have seen their ups and downs, despite a commitment made by US President Barack Obama and China's President Hu Jintao in November last year to advance military-to-military relations.

Beijing broke off military ties in January over US plans to sell more than $6 billion worth of arms to Taiwan. The US has since been trying to resume military contacts.

In June, China rejected a proposed visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying it will invite him "at a proper time".

The ties started to warm up in mid-October when Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met Gates in Hanoi before the inaugural meeting of Asia-Pacific defense ministers. Liang invited Gates to visit China early next year.

Beijing and Washington later held two days of maritime security talks in Hawaii.

Next week, Mullen said, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy will host her Chinese counterpart for defense talks, with the main point of discussion being US-China military ties.

In addition, Mullen has invited General Chen Bingde, chief of the Chinese army's general staff, to visit the Pentagon.

Mullen offered three suggestions to make the US-China military exchanges "most fruitful": working from a posture of mutual respect; thinking locally and globally about mutual security issues, while looking toward a shared future.

"Many of our security issues have a common dimension, centered in places where China can exert a great deal of constructive influence and where our interests are aligned," Mullen said.

He said opportunities for further cooperation may arise from adversity and called on China to play a bigger role in regional and international stability, especially on the troubled Korean Peninsula.

China's constructive role is essential as tension has once again risen in the region, Mullen said.

After the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) revealed its latest and most sophisticated uranium enrichment plant and the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire, "the stakes are going up", he said.

He said that China, with its unique position with the DPRK, can greatly help to ease tension.

Beijing has proposed emergency consultations in early December of the Six-Party Talk members, which consist of China, the US, DPRK, Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan and Russia.

But Mullen said the meeting "will not substitute for action" and Beijing should step up and take more action.

He said he does not agree to reward Pyongyang's provocative and destabilizing behavior with bargaining or new incentives despite of Beijing's continued diplomatic efforts.

Chinese analysts said Sino-US military relations have experienced a U-turn, and next year will see a good start of bilateral ties with Gates' planned visit to China and President Hu Jintao's scheduled visit to the US.

"Top leaders of the two nations are fully aware that confrontation hurt both, and exert negative impacts on regional and international security," said Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, an expert on US military affairs at Beijing-based Academy of Military Science.

Zhao said that although the two countries are impossible to solve the structural conflicts between them, but "have to sit down and talk for solutions of many bilateral and regional issues".

Pentagon leader says China ties to improve

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