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PLA chief tours US carrier

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-05-14 11:30

Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), visited US military facilities on Tuesday and is expected to meet with Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday at the National Defense University as part of the push to strengthen military-to-military ties between the two countries, according to the American Forces Press Service under the US Department of Defense.

Fang, who took office in 2012, arrived in Los Angeles on Monday night, and toured the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and littoral combat ship USS Coronado in San Diego on Tuesday.

In California, Fang also met with US Pacific Command commander Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear III, who also escorted Fang in touring the aircraft carrier.

On Wednesday, Fang is scheduled to tour the Marine Corps Recruit Depot before boarding a plane to come to Washington, where he was expected to visit the National Defense University in Washington in the later afternoon.

Fang is paying a five-day visit to the US at the invitation of Dempsey, who went to China in April last year at the invitation of Fang.

On Thursday morning, Dempsey will host Fang at the Pentagon, where the Chinese general will receive a full-military-honors arrival ceremony. Then the two will meet for about two and three hours before meeting the press in a joint news conference.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in South and East China Seas are expected to be among the topics.

On Friday, Fang will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before wrapping up his travel with meetings in New York.

"General Dempsey looks forward to the opportunity to meet again with General Fang and continue their conversation on improving the US-China (military-to-military) relationship," Joint Staff officials was quoted by American Forces Press Service as saying.

Zhu Zhiqun, director of the China Institute and professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said General Fang's visit to the US is part of the bilateral efforts to sustain high-level exchanges between the two militaries.

"In principle, such exchanges contribute to better understanding of each other's intentions. However, the knots of mistrust and suspicion between the two sides have not been fully untied," Zhu said.

The US seems to be taking sides recently in the territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors, and the United States tends to blame China for the heightened tensions in the region without objectively looking at why China has become more assertive and more responsive to perceived provocations, according to Zhu.

"Building trust and expanding cooperation in military and security affairs should be the priority of the two militaries," Zhu said.

Fang's visit comes just less than two weeks before the start of the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise, set for June 26 and August 1. China will be participating in the exercise for the first time since it was launched in 1971.

The PLA Navy will send four ships - a destroyer, a frigate, an oiler and a hospital ship - to the largest naval war game, which will involve 23 nations and 47 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 troops.

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