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Top general heads off on high-profile US tour

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am

Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie will embark on an official week-long visit to the United States tomorrow, state media reported yesterday.

As China's fifth-highest-ranking military official, Liang will meet US state and military leaders before talks with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and a joint press conference, Xinhua said, citing an announcement by China's Defence Ministry.

Liang is also expected to visit the US Southern Command, the US Army's Fort Benning, the Naval Base San Diego, the 4th Fighter Wing of the US Air Force, the II Marine Expeditionary Force and the US Military Academy at West Point, the state news agency said.

The visit is also expected to enhance mutual understanding and trust, promote co-operation, and push forward the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, as well as military ties, Liang said.

He met US acting Undersecretary of Defence James Miller in Beijing yesterday, noting that frequent high-level visits have promoted the building of a co-operative partnership of mutual respect and benefits between the two countries.

Liang also urged the two sides to expand common interests and resolve differences, so as to ensure the sound and stable development of bilateral military relations.

His tour comes amid tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, including a recent stand-off around Huangyan Island, referred to by the Philippines as the Scarborough Shoal.

Professor Shi Yinhong , who specialises in international relations at Renmin University, said yesterday that, much like that of Vice-President Xi Jinping's trip in mid-February, Liang's trip will be part of normal top-level exchanges between the two countries - exchanges that have improved since President Hu Jintao's US visit in January last year.

'As Washington has a huge influence over the actions of the Philippines, I think General Liang will urge his US counterparts to make use of that influence to keep Manila from overreacting while working to solve problems through diplomatic dialogues,' the Beijing-based analyst said.

Shi also said he thought Liang would almost certainly bring up the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan. The White House on Friday promised it would give 'serious consideration' to selling F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.

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