General Fang Fenghui, People's Liberation Army chief of general staff, hopes China and the United States can forge a "new type of military relationship" in talks with visiting chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Fang called their talks in Beijing yesterday - the first high-level meeting between military chiefs of the world's two biggest economies since leadership reshuffles in both countries - "an important event in the bilateral military exchange programme".
At a joint news conference, Dempsey defended the re-orientation of American foreign policy towards Asia, after Beijing last week criticised Washington for ramping up its military presence in the region. "We seek to be a stabilising influence in the region," he said. "In fact, we believe it would be our absence that would be destabilising in the region, not our presence."
Fang suggested that the two nations work together to improve communication and co-ordination to deal with any possible crisis in the region. "[The interaction] not only concerns the relations between the two armies, but also affects the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "We share the responsibility of jointly safeguarding [it]."
Beijing and Washington have in recent months traded accusations of massive cyber-intrusions. When asked whether China was willing to delegate staff to set rules for global cybersecurity, Fang said that the internet, "if it is not managed well, may bring damaging consequences".
"If security cannot be guaranteed, it is not an exaggeration to say that the consequences could be as serious as a nuclear bomb," he said.
Fang also said there was a possibility that North Korea could launch a fourth nuclear test.
Dempsey, who arrived in Beijing on Sunday, will meet the country's top leaders and visit military academies during his five-day stay. He met South Korean commanders before flying to Beijing, and will travel to Japan after his China tour.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew visited China last month and US Secretary of State John Kerry also visited this month.
Ni Lexiong , director of the sea power and defence policy research institute at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the visits of US officials in charge of the economy, diplomacy and the military showed that Sino-US relations "at least appear not to be affected" by a territorial dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea.
"It shows the United States wants to maintain existing relations and avoid tension," Ni said.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will visit China tomorrow and Thursday.