Chinese general urges calm amid regional tensions in US visit

PLA official Cai Yingting urges 'win-win' relationship with Washington, as visit signals 'maturing' ties despite Pacific tensions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 10:29am

PLA deputy chief of general staff Cai Yingting stressed during a visit to Washington the importance of trust and credibility between the Chinese and American militaries for developing a stable relationship.

Cai made the comments at a meeting on Friday with Admiral James Winnefeld, the No 2 officer in the US armed forces.

Analysts saw their meeting during such a sensitive period, with the United States and Japan conducting joint naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, as evidence that the relationship between the two powers was maturing.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Cai revealed that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta would visit China next month.

Cai said he had conveyed to his US colleagues China's strong opposition to the application of the US-Japan security treaty to the Diaoyu Islands. Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo have flared in recent weeks over the disputed territory, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands.

US-Japan military exercises began on Tuesday. Both countries have described the training operations as routine and denied the exercises were held with China in mind.

During his visit to the Pentagon, Cai, who also met Deputy US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, urged the development of a "win-win" relationship based on "respect, fairness and tolerance" between the US and China, according to Xinhua.

He urged both sides to focus on shared goals and values when dealing with knotty issues to avoid misunderstandings. He told Carter that a strong relationship between the US armed forces and the People's Liberation Army could foster broader co-operation between the countries.

The US has declared a change of strategy under which it will move a larger share of its forces to the Pacific region, where long-simmering territorial disputes between China and its neighbours have escalated in recent months.

Last week, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported that China was developing a multiple-warhead ballistic missile that could potentially overcome US anti-missile defences

The Pentagon reportedly said it planned to expand missile defences in Japan to address threats from North Korea - a move that could also counter China.

Carter, however, told Cai that the US was not trying to contain China's influence in the region.

Shi Yinhong , an expert on Sino-US relations at Renmin University, said the decision to go ahead with such a high-level military visit despite regional tensions suggested a healthier relationship between the two sides.

He also noted improved ties between the mainland and Taiwan, a long-time recipient of US military aid.

"We all acknowledge that relations between China and the US are not so harmonious right now," Shi said. "Yet their main obstacle - the arms sales to Taiwan - has become less important after cross-strait relations were improved and Washington is willing to co-operate with Beijing on the arms-sale issue."

Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in Beijing, said Cai's trip proved that Washington's "return to Asia" would not harm Sino-US relations.

Cai is also scheduled to visit US army bases in the states of Texas, Missouri and Hawaii.