MOCK DRILLS
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People's Liberation Army

Chinese and US militaries hold joint disaster drills

Two nations express desire for closer ties after drills based on coping with emergencies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 3:11am

The Chinese and US militaries held joint disaster response exercises yesterday, as Beijing increases its global reach and Washington continues its "pivot" to the Pacific.

The joint drill, which saw officers from both nations express hopes for closer ties, came amid rising concerns in Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam over Beijing's territorial claims in disputed seas.

During the mock drills at a military base on the outskirts of Chengdu in Sichuan province, the two sides worked together on computer-generated disaster scenarios - in fictionalised countries.

"China and the US are separated by the Pacific Ocean. Our two militaries joining hands ... answers to the aspirations of the two sides," Major Tang Fen, of the People's Liberation Army, said after the two-day exercise.

"This plays a very important role in relations between our two nations and two militaries."

US Major General Stephen Lyons said: "If there is a country out there, and inevitably there will be, that will have a natural disaster, and they call for international help, if US forces and Chinese forces respond, then indeed we'll find ourselves working together in the field."

Earlier this week, visiting US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus welcomed China to take part in future US-led joint naval exercises, and reiterated an invitation by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta when he visited in September.

"The Chinese side thanks the US side for the invite, and will give it positive consideration," Geng Yansheng , spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said in remarks posted on its website yesterday.

The US invitation comes as Washington tries to reassure Beijing over its strategic "pivot" to the Pacific, while China is becoming increasingly assertive in territorial disputes with several of its neighbours.

China said on Sunday that one of its fighter jets had landed on its new aircraft carrier, Liaoning, for the first time, a move that extends Beijing's ability to project military might. Tensions between China and Japan, a US ally, have risen dramatically in recent months over islands in the East China Sea which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyus and Tokyo, which administers them, refers to as the Senkakus.

Beijing is locked in similar rows with Vietnam and the Philippines over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

At the landmark 18th party congress last month, outgoing President Hu Jintao urged the country to push forward fast-paced military modernisation and set the goal of becoming a "maritime power".