US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan to Washington, DC on Monday for their first Pentagon meeting.
At a joint news conference during a break in their meetings, Hagel announced that he will visit China next year to capitalise on an improving trend in US-China relations, even as Beijing casts a wary eye on the Pentagon’s strategic “pivot” to the Pacific.
Hagel and Chang told reporters they saw room for greater US-China military cooperation, including joint exercises and high-level visits.
They also affirmed that China’s navy next year will participate for the first time in a major international maritime exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.
“General Chang brought up two of the initiatives that President Xi proposed to President Obama at their summit in June, one, a way to notify each other of major military activities, and, two, rules of behaviour for military air and naval activities,” Hagel said, adding that he welcomed the discussion and noticed that the “transparency that we’ve had is important to reducing the risk of miscalculation and avoiding unintended tensions or conflicts.”
Hagel said he accepted Chang’s invitation to visit Beijing in 2014.
The last US defence secretary to visit China was Leon Panetta in September 2012.
Chang and Hagel both spoke hopefully of building greater trust between the two nations’ militaries and chipping away at long-held suspicions.
“Building a new model of China-US military relationship can help us to increase strategic trust to reduce strategic risks and to maintain world peace and regional stability”, Chang said.
But Chang also cautioned against mistaking his country’s friendliness for weakness and said any relationship must be a “win-win” for both sides based on mutual respect.
“A healthy and mature military-to-military relationship should be a comprehensive one, instead of an imbalanced one. In order to build a new model of military relationship, we need more substantive exchanges in wider areas and more practical cooperation in more diversified forms”, he said.
Also on the meeting agenda was cyber security.
Both men said they welcomed the recent establishment of a new US-China cyber working group as a way to address the areas of mutual concern.
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