They agreed to carry out a number of exchange programs such as anti-piracy drills
Senior officers of the Chinese and United States armed forces agreed to conduct a series of exchange programs on Monday, but failed to iron out their differences regarding the South China Sea.
Chen Bingde (R), Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), meets with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2011.
EXCHANGE PROGRAMS LAID OUT
Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hosted his U.S. counterpart Mike Mullen with a red-carpet welcoming ceremony Monday morning.
“It’s fair to say that we found a lot of common ground, although we do have different opinions on certain issues,” Chen said after their closed-door talks at the PLA’s headquarters in Beijing.
According to a press release issued by the Defense Ministry, the two sides have agreed to carry out a number of exchange programs.
Those programs range from anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden, medical and rescue drills by hospital ships and humanitarian rescue and disaster relief drills by armed forces to exchanges between senior military officers and working group meetings.
“The two sides agreed to strengthen military cooperation in order to cope with international and regional security challenges,” the press release said, adding that both sides will “endeavor to maintain peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Mullen’s ongoing visit is part of the two countries’ latest military exchange program, which dates back to former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gate’s visit to China in January and Chen’s U.S. trip in May.
During his four-day trip to China, Mullen visited the headquarters of China’s strategic Second Artillery Force and is due to visit Chinese army, navy and air force units in the provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang.
He has met with Vice President Xi Jinping and other top military leaders such as Guo Boxiong and Liang Guanglie, as well as with Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the Second Artillery Force and Navy Commander Wu Shengli.
QUARRELS OVER SOUTH CHINA SEA REMAIN
“We have been glad to witness a rebound in bilateral military relations, which has been hard-won and should be treasured,” Chen said, warning that it is “inappropriate” for the United States to hold military drills amid disagreements between China and other countries in the South China Sea.
The oil- and gas-rich South China Sea is partially claimed by several southeast Asian states, including the Philippines and Vietnam. However, China has indisputable sovereignty over the sea’s islands and their surrounding waters.
Navies from the United States and the Philippines recently finished an 11-day military exercise near the South China Sea. The United States and Vietnam are scheduled to hold joint naval drills in the region from July 15 to 21.
The U.S. side has repeated that it does not intend to engage in the disputes.
“However, their behavior has given us some mixed signals,” Chen said at a joint press conference held after his talks with Mullen.
“The U.S. is not going away (from the South China Sea). Our enduring presence in this region has been important to our allies for decades and will continue to be so,” Mullen said on Sunday.
Chen admitted that the U.S. presence is “already a fact” and will continue to exist because of U.S. interests in the area.
“We want to know how many U.S. military forces will be deployed in this area and what they will do with their presence,” Chen said, adding that he hopes the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea will help to bring stability to the region.
In response to a question regarding U.S. surveillance operations in waters near the Chinese coastline, Chen said that China is a responsible country and that there is no need for the United States to conduct frequent surveillance in the region.
“We hope the United States can take our feelings into consideration and make positive contributions in the interest of bilateral cooperation,” he said.