Chinese experts yesterday spoke positively about an invitation to the PLA by the United States and Australia to join military exercises, saying China might consider joining the scheduled event.
The invitation suggests that Canberra "intends to repair the stalled Sino-Australian relations" after a diplomatic row, said Fu Mengzi, a senior researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
But he noted it is not the first time the PLA has been invited to joint drills, so "there's no need to play it up".
Following a meeting between Australia's military chief Angus Houston and US Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating, both countries agreed to approach China's Ministry of Defense about joint naval and land exercises, Keating told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We are anxious to engage with them," Keating said, noting that joint exercises could start with small naval and land activities followed by personnel exchanges.
The Ministry of Defense yesterday did not respond.
Relations between China and Australia were soured by the granting of an Australian visa to Rebiya Kadeer, the alleged mastermind of the July 5 Urumqi riots, and the Rio Tinto commercial espionage case, involving the arrest in China of an Australian mining executive.
But Fan Jishe, a professor at the American Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, brushed aside possible link between the invitation and the Sino-Australian relations.
He noted the Keating has always been pushing for military exchanges with China, and the invitation this time should not be interpreted differently.
Meanwhile, military cooperation between the US and Australia "has been strengthened" in recent years, and Washington has expected Canberra to play a more important role in the Asia Pacific region, he said.
Senior Colonel Li Jie, a researcher with the Chinese Navy's Military Acadamy, while admitting the invitation was a "sign of goodwill", said the US may want to use the event to better understand China's military and its intentions.
Both Canberra and Washington have expressed worries about China's build-up of sea and air military power.
But Li said the US military has long been conducting "comprehensive survey missions" in China's exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea, which he said far surpassed the limit of acceptance for relations between friendly countries.
"We want to understand much better than we do now China's intentions. China does publish a (defense) white paper but we find it to be less than fulfilling," Keating said.
Canberra in May published a military strategy blueprint, or white paper, pinpointing China's rise as the "greatest threat" to Asia security and querying its "pace, scope and structure".