Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie said yesterday that China's military build-up poses no threat to the world and called for closer military co-operation with Washington as he had talks with US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
The talks, in which both sides discussed maritime security and Washington's move to bolster its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, came on the heels of Beijing's leadership change and successful landing tests on the country's first aircraft carrier.
The sensitive timing of the talks indicated that both militaries wanted to cement bilateral ties, which have been strained by Washington's involvement in territorial disputes between the mainland and its neighbours.
Some in the region have expressed concern about Beijing's double-digit increases in defence spending. "The Chinese military must develop, but there's no 'worry' or 'fear' as the outside world says," Liang said on the sidelines of the meeting.
Beijing has expressed frustrations over Washington's "pivot" to Asia, saying the strategy would create a disturbance in the region.
Beijing has also told Washington not to get involved in territorial disputes between China and its neighbours. However, Liang told Mabus that a "new type of military ties between two big nations" should be established, according to a report by Xinhua.
"The two militaries should seek co-operation in areas that [they] have common interest, but contain areas that have disputes and conflicts," he said.
For his part, Mabus said the US Navy would continue to co-operate with China in areas such as anti-piracy patrols. He said the US is committed to developing a partnership with China.
During his four-day stay, Mabus will travel to Ningbo, Zhejiang province, to visit a new frigate and a conventionally powered submarine.
Military analysts said the visit by Mabus indicated that neither side wanted territorial disputes and the desire to achieve a dominant position in the region would hamper ties between the two countries.
"It shows that the two militaries can still engage themselves in talks," said Antony Wong Dong, president of the Macau-based International Military Association.
"Beijing apparently believes that improving military ties with the US is a tactic to prevent Washington from meddling too much into Asia," he said.
Ni Lexiong, director of a defence policy research institute at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Beijing believes Washington "has not gone too far" in backing Japan, even though it has said that disputed East China Sea islands were covered by its security treaty with Tokyo.
"Both countries want to keep the territorial disputes in the region from escalating," he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press