Opinion / Chen Weihua

PLA participation in RIMPAC a milestone

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-27 07:24

For a long time, the bilateral military-to-military relationship has lagged far behind other dimensions of the bilateral relationship, such as trade investment, and cultural and education exchanges. Yet, bilateral military exchanges in the past two years have been hailed by many as an unexpected bright spot in the relationship, with a growing number of high-level visits and joint exercises.

There is still much to be done, of course. The misunderstanding and distrust between the two militaries, as exemplified by the so-called Air Sea Battle Concept and the rampant US surveillance off the Chinese coast and the Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy of the PLA, are still cause for concern.

Any miscommunication or miscalculation between the two militaries could flare up and result in conflict, especially when they have close encounters at sea. Ship captains and sailors who have had joint exercises with the other are more likely to read the situation calmly and exercise restraint even in complicated situations.

There is no doubt that the US rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, especially the military component, and the tensions over the territorial disputes in both the East China and South China seas have posed new challenges for the two militaries. And that means joint exercises, such as RIMPAC, have become more important so the two militaries prevent possible accidents and clashes.

It also means that the US Congress should review its related laws, such as the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which have greatly restricted bilateral military exchanges and cooperation, including how many of the RIMPAC programs the PLA Navy can participate in.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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