U.S. invites China to watch military exercise to build trust
SHENYANG, China – A top American admiral said Monday he invited Chinese commanders to observe a U.S. military exercise in an effort to build ties, but he said the process will not succeed without similar gestures by Beijing.Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. Pacific forces, said that during a weeklong visit he urged Chinese military leaders to help open direct communications and build confidence between the two militaries, which have only sporadic contacts.Fallon said Chinese officials expressed interest in closer ties but did not immediately respond to the invitation to attend next month’s exercises in Guam. He also said they expressed dismay at a Pentagon report calling Beijing a potential military threat.”We are moving forward. It is obvious we have the consensus and endorsement of senior leadership on both sides,” Fallon said at the end of a four-day tour that included meetings with China’s defense and foreign ministers and visits to several military bases.Fallon said he invited Chinese officers to watch the Guam exercises from aboard a U.S. warship on June 17-19 and told his hosts that American officials would like to receive similar invitations.Military ties between the United States and China have never been close, and they worsened after the 2001 collision of a U.S. Navy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off China’s southern coast.The Bush administration has called for closer military ties, but some American officials complain that China’s military is too secretive and reluctant to reciprocate tours of sensitive U.S. facilities with equal access to Chinese command centers.Fallon said he asked Chinese commanders to help build a “track record of confidence” that he could use in lobbying Congress to ease legal restrictions on military contacts. A 2000 law limits U.S. cooperation with the People’s Liberation Army to humanitarian, disaster relief and other non-warfare activities.Fallon said Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan expressed concern about the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, released in February, which described China as a potential threat and said Beijing hoped future reports would be “more constructive.”Fallon defended the review, saying U.S. officials were working with minimal information due to Chinese secrecy. He pressed the minister to release more details to allay the skepticism about Chinese intentions.Despite public expressions of suspicion and different political systems, the two sides appear to be ready for more regular interaction, said Reimund Seidelmann, a specialist on the Chinese military at Germany’s Giessen University.Chinese officers, he said, “have not enough information about the real U.S. military and foreign policy, because most of them have never been to the United States.”The 2.3 million-member PLA is the world’s largest fighting force, and Beijing has alarmed its neighbors with double-digit spending increases nearly every year for a decade.Beijing has tried to allay such fears by saying much of its spending is defensive. But the PLA has spent billions of dollars on Russian submarines, fighter jets and other high-tech weaponry and has hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan.Vail, Colorado
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