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US Pentagon chief heads to Asia to affirm ties with allies

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-08 06:59

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter rejected zero-sum thinking in China-US relations as he kicked off a weeklong trip to Asia to maintain ties with traditional allies in the region.

En route to Asia, the Pentagon chief stopped at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, where he said he rejects the old zero-sum thinking under which any gain by China represents a loss to the US, and vice versa. There is another scenario in which everyone wins, he said.

The trip will take him to Japan and South Korea.

Carter dismissed the prediction by some that China will attain predominance over the US in the Asia-Pacific and that its economic growth will squeeze out opportunities for younger US citizens.

Experts said Carter is treading carefully as he seeks greater influence in Asia for the United States as part of its so-called pivot to Asia strategy.

US Pentagon chief heads to Asia to affirm ties with allies

As Beijing continues to win support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank - more than 50 countries and regions are involved in the founding - Carter urged the passage of a free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said holds enormous promise for jobs and economic growth in the US.

Yu Yongding, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the US has felt some urgency to approve the accord as countries in the region are beginning to forge their own trade agreements without US involvement.

During the week, Carter is expected to meet with top government officials in Japan and South Korea, as well as visit US troops. It is one of a series of planned trips to the region during Carter's first year as Pentagon chief. He is also expected to visit India and attend an international security conference in Singapore in May. And he may visit China later in the year.

In his visit to Japan, Carter's talks are expected to focus on new guidelines for the two countries' military cooperation. The guidelines, which are expected to be signed later this month, would lay out an expanded role for Japan's Self-Defense Forces, allowing Tokyo's troops to come to the aid of US forces under attack, officials said.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Carter wants to avoid irritating China on this trip, which is designed to reaffirm relations with traditional Asian allies. Despite different views on several issues, military-to-military relations between China and the US are enjoying their best moment in nearly 20 years, Ruan said.

The White House issued its 2015 National Security Strategy report in February, prioritizing its "pivot" to the Asia Pacific, a long-term focus in US foreign policy and marking the China-US relations as a partnership with a decisive role in the 21st century.

Associated Press contributed to the story.

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