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China-US shared interests emphasized

By Qin Zhongwei and Cheng Guangjin  (China Daily)

10:51, April 23, 2013

Fang Fenghui (left), chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, welcomes Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Beijing on Monday. (Kuang Linhua / China Daily)

Beijing and Washington have the responsibility and shared interests to maintain stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, a high-ranking Chinese military officer said on Monday.

"China and the United States should enhance coordination and cooperation to appropriately handle hot issues and deal with potential crises in the region," Fang Fenghui, chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, said at a news conference after meeting Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in Beijing.

Dempsey arrived in the city on Sunday afternoon for a five-day visit.

He told reporters that stability and prosperity in the region benefit all.

"Stable, reliable and continuous military-to-military relations are the central part of our overall relationship between the United States and China," he said.

It was the first high-level meeting between the two militaries since US President Barack Obama began his second term and China completed its leadership transition.

Dempsey also expressed sadness over loss of life in the magnitude-7 earthquake that hit Ya'an, Sichuan province, on Saturday, and gave high marks to the quick response and performance of PLA soldiers in rescuing people among frequent aftershocks.

Fang said he and his counterpart had candid discussions on traditional and non-traditional security issues during meetings on Monday afternoon, and also exchanged views on Taiwan, the Diaoyu Islands and the Korean Peninsula.

Fang announced the two armies will conduct a humanitarian disaster-relief exercise in 2013 and the two navies will have another anti-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden this year.

Dempsey is expected to meet other high-ranking political and military officials on Tuesday, sources said.

Dempsey's itinerary also includes visiting two top Chinese military academies in Beijing, including the National Defense University of PLA.

Although it was his first visit to China since taking office in 2011, Dempsey and Fang contacted each other by telephone in March, when the two sides vowed to cement military ties.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, deputy director of the Center on China-America Defense Relations at the PLA's Academy of Military Science, said stable military ties based on mutual trust will not only benefit the two countries but also regional stability.

Neither the Chinese nor US side is satisfied with their off-and-on bilateral military relationship in the past 20 years or more, he added.

With new leadership in both countries' militaries, Dempsey's visit will be an opportunity for military officials to enhance communication, Zhao said.

The two countries have had relatively frequent military exchanges in the past two years.

Former US defense secretary Leon Panetta paid his first visit to China in September.

President Xi Jinping visited the Pentagon during his visit as vice-president to the US in February 2012.

China-US military relations have remained stable in the last two years as the US has not sold arms to Taiwan, Zhao said.

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