Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 4 News List

US admiral invites Chinese officers to military drill


A top US admiral said yesterday he had issued a rare invitation to Chinese commanders to observe a US military exercise next month on Guam in an effort to strengthen ties.

Admiral William Fallon, wrapping up a weeklong visit to China, said he hoped such visits would become part of regular exchanges between the two militaries, which have had little interaction since they broke off following the 2001 collision of a US Navy plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

Fallon said officers from other Asian militaries were also invited to attend the Valiant Shield exercise on the sea near Guam. He said his Chinese hosts reacted positively to the invitation but have not said whether they would attend.

Fallon, a commander of US Pacific forces, said he told Chinese commanders that building a "track record of confidence" would help persuade the US Congress to lift restrictions on military interaction between the two sides.

He said Chinese acceptance of invitations to mix with US and other militaries in the region and exchanges of lower level officers would help build such confidence.

"I believe we need to start moving down this road, and the sooner we do it, the better off we will be," Fallon told reporters in this northeastern Chinese city, the last stop on his trip.

During his four-city tour, Fallon met with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan (曹剛川) and regional military commanders.

Fallon said Cao expressed concern about a Pentagon report last year that described China as a potential military threat and said that Beijing hoped that such reports in the future would be "more constructive."

Fallon said he told Cao that officials who wrote that report had less information to work with than they wanted and said he pressed the minister to release more information about China's secretive military.

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