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Military ties on the 'upswing'
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08:49, June 23, 2009

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Senior Chinese and US military officials will look for common ground when they meet for the 10th Defense Consultative Talks (DCT) in Beijing starting today.

The delegations will seek ways to cooperate over issues including maritime disputes and nuclear disarmament, a military source who will attend the talks told China Daily.

"There are many areas for cooperation, despite disagreements," the source said yesterday on condition of anonymity. "Both sides have the same need for cooperation."

The source said issues at the two-day dialogue will likely include the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Straits and Afghanistan.

The sessions will be attended by a US delegation led by Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary for policy with the US Department of Defense, and a Chinese delegation led by Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army.

The talks will be held at the headquarters of the PLA Central Military Commission, the Chinese army's top command.

The last DCT session was in Washington 18 months ago.

Military exchanges were frozen until February, after the Bush administration announced plans to sell $6.5 billion in arms to Taiwan.

Tao Wenzhao, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said disagreements will persist in military ties, but: "The Obama administration has the tone of not letting disagreements affect the cooperation in common interests."

Chinese and US naval vessels have had several confrontations since early March. The latest incident saw a Chinese submarine damage an underwater sonar array towed by the US destroyer USS John S. McCain on June 11 in the South China Sea. Both sides played down the collision and said it may have been an "accident".

Experts said Sino-US disputes at sea tend to arise because of differing interpretations of the "freedoms of navigation and overflight in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ)". The US insists freedom of navigation includes its current activities in China's EEZ.

Neither China nor the US will likely compromise their positions on the maritime standoffs between Chinese naval vessels and US survey ships, said a Beijing-based researcher with the National Defense University.

"The Chinese military will stand firm on the disputes and be serious about bilateral cooperation," said the researcher, who asked not to be named.

An unnamed senior official from the US Department of Defense confirmed the sides will address the confrontations, but said cooperation with China is "on the upswing".

"The contacts and the dialogue that goes on in these visits will help transparency by clarifying intentions, clarifying world views, clarifying strategies," the official said.

"China hopes to make concerted efforts with the United States to ensure positive results from the talks," the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said in a statement yesterday.

Source: China Daily



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