China’s defense minister and the US Navy secretary yesterday discussed security at sea and Washington’s moves to bolster its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which are viewed by Beijing as a deeply unwelcome containment policy.
The visit by US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus comes just days after China began landing planes on its newly commissioned aircraft carrier, displaying rapid progress toward deploying the ultimate symbol of naval power.
China’s Defense Ministry said Mabus met with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) as part of a four-day visit, but gave no other details apart from their agenda. The US embassy did not immediately respond to requests for information.
Beijing has criticized the US moves in the Pacific as part of a campaign to encircle and contain China, despite Washington’s claims that it is merely shifting its focus back to the region after winding-down the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
China, for its part, has unnerved its neighbors with its moves to assert its claims in the South China Sea and off its east coast.
Along with acquiring an aircraft carrier, sophisticated fighter jets and other modern hardware, China has stepped-up training among the 2.3-million-member People’s Liberation Army. State media yesterday repeatedly showed footage of ground exercises in the Nanjing Military District that faces Taiwan.
Despite sometimes bellicose attitudes on both sides, there is also a growing push for greater contact and communication to avoid misunderstandings and build trust. Officers from the sides are meeting in China this week for exchanges on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations that will include a simulated coordinated response to an earthquake in a third country.
Prior to his meeting with Mabus, Liang said China’s military buildup poses no threat to the world.
“There is absolutely no need for that,” Liang told Reuters, when asked about neighbors’ concerns amid long-running maritime disputes.
“The Chinese military must develop, but there’s no ‘worry’ or ‘fear’ as the outside world says,” he said.
Liang, speaking at the ministry, stressed the need for cooperation between Beijing and Washington, which has called on China to share more about its military ambitions.
“We should develop the ties between us, between our two militaries, touch on some of our differences, resolve conflicting views,” Liang said.
“We should push forward the development of our two powers, and push forward the development of a new China-US military relationship,” he said. “Our two countries’ ties are very important.”
Additional reporting by Reuters