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Top Chinese admiral to visit US this year

By Chen Weihua in Washington and Zhao Yanrong in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-22 07:05

Joint naval exercise in 2014 reflects better military ties

China will send its senior naval commander to visit the United States in September ahead of the Rim of the Pacific naval exercise next year, which will involve naval forces from both countries, a senior US officer has said.

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of US Naval Operations, said at the Pentagon on Friday that he is looking forward to greeting his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, in September.

He also said China will join the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise, which he said could be bigger than the last one, which involved 22 nations.

The large-scale exercise has long excluded China, the major nation in the Asia-Pacific, which is often seen as a target instead, experts said. The inclusion of China in the exercise is seen by experts as part of an ongoing improvement in military ties between the two nations.

Greenert said the US and China have participated a number of recent bilateral military exchanges, including the ASEAN disaster relief and humanitarian assistance exercises hosted by Brunei last month.

The two countries have agreed that they need to establish protocols at sea that will make both comfortable, as well as improving communication and cooperation where necessary, according to Greenert, commander of the US Seventh Fleet from 2004 to 2006.

"We are going to share insights on things. And we've got to eliminate miscalculation," he said

Before Wu's scheduled visit, Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan is expected to land in the US in August, US media quoted US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as saying.

This follows a trip to China in April by Martin Dempsey, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Meanwhile, Hagel is expected to pay a return visit to China in 2014, according to the outcome document of the fifth round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Washington a week ago.

The S&ED outcome document also said the two nations are committed to strengthening their military-to-military relationship.

Both have decided to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and to continue discussions on the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities.

Senior military officials also attended the dialogue.

On July 16, Vice-Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, dismissed claims of a cold war between China and the US and emphasized the friendly relationship that is being developed.

US media reported last week that the US has agreed to let Chinese naval vessels make port calls at US naval bases.

Pan Zheng, a military scholar with the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, said the US invitation to China for the Rim of the Pacific exercise is of great symbolic importance in bilateral military ties.

"However, it is just the start, which does not mean substantial progress in that regard," he said.

Shen Dingli, vice-dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai, said such incremental improvement could be significant if it adds up over a period of time.

But he cautioned that the foundation is still fragile.

"The Obama government is still likely to sell arms to Taiwan during his remaining more than three years in office. If the US takes such a step, it will deal a heavy blow to the bilateral military cooperation," Shen said in his article published in Shanghai's Wenhui Daily.

Contact the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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