General's trip signals improved US ties

14:06, October 27, 2009      

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A planned visit to the US by one of China's top soldiers is being seen as an indication of improved ties between the nations after recent setbacks.

The scheduled tour, which was planned during the 10th Sino-US Defense Consultative Talks held in Beijing in June, shows relations between the countries have improved, said Pan Zheng, a senior expert in US strategy at the National Defense University.

"A string of sensitive incidents since US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited China two years ago has delayed Xu's reciprocal visit," he told China Daily.

Sino-US relations were derailed last year when the Pentagon agreed to sell arms to Taiwan.

They were further damaged during a series of incidents that began in March during which Chinese and US naval vessels had confrontations in the South China Sea. On June 11, a Chinese submarine collided with an underwater sonar array being towed by a US destroyer.

"Allowing Xu to visit the posts and bases is a gesture on the part of the US military, as if to say 'we're now opening ourselves up to you and so should you'," Pan said.

Xu, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, is scheduled to visit the US Naval Academy, the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, the Nellis Air Force Base, the North Island Naval Air Station and US Pacific Command in Honolulu.

Morrell said Gates "especially wants military-to-military contacts to establish better trust and transparency".

"The more transparency there is, the more dialogue that goes on, the less chance there is for a misunderstanding between two very formidable powers on the world stage," Morrell said.

Xu and Gates may touch on the Chinese army's growing role in global affairs, including its participation in anti-terrorism operations and influence in maintaining regional stability, Pan said.

Source: China Daily
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