China and the US share common objectives and should boost cooperation between their militaries, the US Army chief said yesterday at the start of meetings with top Chinese generals aimed at building trust amid rising regional tensions.
US Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno told People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Wang Ning (王漢寧) that both had “incredibly professional armies” that should work more closely together, in an effort to propel forward a relationship that has progressed by fits and starts over the past decade.
“I believe these discussions are important to continue our dialogue. We have many common objectives,” Odierno said in opening remarks at their meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Defense in western Beijing.
Wang said China “sincerely hoped” for more substantial relations with the US military through practical cooperation.
Both sides said they looked forward to discussing international and regional security matters, a nod to bitter disputes between China and two US allies — Japan and the Philippines — over territorial claims in the East and South China seas that have raised alarms over the possibility of armed conflict.
The director of intelligence for the US Pacific Fleet, Captain James Fanell, said last week that Chinese war games held last year were engineered to ready forces to snatch away disputed islands from Japan, a move that almost certainly would trigger a US response.
Odierno, the former commander of US forces in Iraq, was greeted with full military honors and had a full day of meetings scheduled in addition to a dialogue with academics at Peking University.
Along with the sharpening territorial disputes with its neighbors, China also sparked US concerns late last year when it unexpectedly announced an air defense zone encompassing a large swath of the East China Sea, including the Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus, but also claimed by China and Taiwan, which it calls the Diaoyutais (釣魚台).
Washington has refused to recognize the zone or follow China’s demands that its aircraft file flight plans with Beijing’s Ministry of Defense and heed Chinese instructions. China has warned of unspecified retaliatory measures against aircraft that do not comply, but has so far taken no action.
Despite tensions between the two sides, the militaries have pushed ahead with limited steps to reduce longstanding mistrust between them. They have held simulations aimed at cooperating in humanitarian relief operations, and China’s navy later this year is to take part in multinational naval exercises off Hawaii.
Odierno will travel north today to tour the headquarters of China’s Shenyang Military Region.