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Boost for Sino-US military ties

By Yao Yunzhu | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-17 08:21
China and the United States both have termed last week's summit between presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama at Sunnylands, California, as a great success. Among the wide range of issues discussed by the two leaders at the two-day informal meeting was Sino-US military relationship.

At his press briefing on June 7, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said: "Both sides stressed the importance of improving and developing bilateral military relations and their desire to push forward the construction of a new pattern of China-US military relations."

US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, on the other hand, said Sino-US military-to-military ties lagged behind bilateral political and economic relations, and stressed the need to increase and deepen military engagements.

If both leaders agree to build better military relations, compatible with the new model of relationship between China and the US, it's time the two militaries found ways and means to transform their leaders' conformity into concrete actions.

First, both militaries should make greater efforts to address their trust deficit. From China's perspective, the policy of "Rebalance toward Asia-Pacific Region" can be interpreted as a design to contain the rise of China.

The military part of the US' "rebalancing" act in Asia includes deployment of up to 60 percent naval and air units and capabilities, redeployment of forces withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific region, strengthening military alliances and forging closer ties with regional partners, and joint development and deployment of ballistic missile defense systems in East Asia. All these have been interpreted as measures directed to counterbalance an increasingly modernized Chinese military. In fact, some US operational concepts such as the "Air-Sea Battle" are tailor-made for conflict scenarios with China. It is thus inevitable for the People's Liberation Army to surmise that the US military is making preparations against it.

There are a bunch of issues that remain to be resolved, and they include arms sales to Taiwan, the arms embargo imposed on the Chinese mainland since 1989, and the frequent US maritime/air surveillance and reconnaissance activities aimed at China. Besides, China is one of the four countries whose military power the US Congress has requested the Department of Defense to assess annually - the other three being the former Soviet Union, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The US' concerns include lack of transparency in China's military affairs, opposition to surveillance in China's exclusive economic zones, and double-digit increase in China's annual defense budget. Such deep-rooted distrust has been plaguing Sino-US military relations for more than two decades.

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