U.S. plays down tension with China, upbeat on military exchanges

BEIJING Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:05am EST

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno (L) shakes hands with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, at Bayi Building in Beijing February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno (L) shakes hands with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, at Bayi Building in Beijing February 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lintao Zhang/Pool

Related Topics

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States is optimistic about military exchanges with China and wants deeper ties to help reduce the risk of miscalculation, a top U.S. military officer said on Saturday, playing down tension between the world's two biggest economies.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told reporters in Beijing that he had had "frank, honest and important" talks with his Chinese counterparts on establishing deeper dialogue between the two armies.

"This is really about expanding cooperation, and, frankly, managing competition. We want to expand our cooperation at a very high level, deepen our cooperation in areas of mutual interest and then manage our differences constructively," Odierno said.

"I believe we have lots in common, with not only the Chinese government but the Chinese military. It's important for us that we emphasize engagement, dialogue and understanding and build trust between our militaries.

China and the United States have numerous diplomatic disagreements in the region, including China's moves to assert sovereignty in the South and East China Sea and U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as a wayward province.

"Those are all issues that we've been working through for a long time and will continue to work through," Odierno said.

The Chinese and U.S. militaries have faced off on several occasions in recent years, raising the fear of an unintended clash because of a lack of proper communication channels between the two sides.

In December, a U.S. guided missile cruiser operating in international waters in the South China Sea was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a Chinese warship maneuvering nearby.

"Building a relationship where you can pick up the phone and call your counterpart, having the ability to build confidence in each other where you've dealt with each other on several occasions really helps to mitigate potential miscalculation and problems," Odierno said.

TENSION WITH JAPAN

The Pentagon on Thursday played down remarks by a senior U.S. Navy intelligence officer who told a public forum that he believed China was training its forces to be capable of carrying out a "short, sharp" war with Japan in the East China Sea.

Asked about the officer's comments, Odierno said: "I've seen no indications of that at all."

While the East China Sea and China's increasingly bitter dispute with Japan over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands there was not a major feature of his talks, Odierno said he emphasized the importance of dialogue.

"We reinforced the importance of dialogue and discussion between the Japanese and the Chinese regarding this issue," he added.

Odierno said he expected more progress to be made on boosting military-to-military relations when U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visits China in April.

"There's plenty of leeway for us to develop a strong, long-term relationship," he said.

Odierno did not bring up, and was not asked about, a meeting in Washington on Friday between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, which China condemned as interference in its internal affairs.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
China really needs to grow up and stop being so threatened by a Tibetan monk. I mean, really, what are they afraid of? Is Buddhism that much of a threat? It’s not exactly well known for fomenting revolution, especially when compared with Islam.

Feb 22, 2014 1:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
General Odierno is correct because China will watch Afghanistan with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan after the US and NATO leave in December, 2014. Muslims struck the US on 9-11, the US and NATO invaded Afghanistan, and the US and others invaded and fought in Iraq. China fights muslim rebels in Xinjiang; Russia fights them in the southern Caucasus; and the central Asian members of the SCO have fought muslim rebel attacks. The journalist, Ahmed Rashid, writes books about the Taliban and central Asia for more details.

Americans focus on US efforts, but the US, China, and Russia are on the same side in the same war. China has sent 16 naval flotillas to fight Somali pirates as part of the International Naval Force, and US and Chinese warships conducted joint rescue exercises in the Indian Ocean and near Pearl Harbor in 2013. China participated in Asia’s largest military exercises in Thailand with US, Thai, and South Korean troops, among others. China built and sold several squadrons of combat aircraft to Pakistan that have bombed Taliban rebels in Pakistan, and China transferred technology to let Pakistan build its warplanes. China built and sold three warships to Pakistan that have fought Somali pirates, and China transferred the technology to let Pakistan build its warships. Most recently, Russia and China helped the US and NATO to avoid a major debacle in Syria that is next to Iraq, and few loyal Americans want to kill 4,500 to 9,000 US troops and wound 33,000 to 66,000 US soldiers in a new war that could embrace Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, the scene of the 1983 Beirut bombing of US Marines.

An examination of articles on Chinese military exercises in Xinhua reveal that China’s most modern tanks, AFVs, artillery, and drones are in its 13th and 14th armies in Sichuan Province adjacent to Xinjiang and Tibet. The armies near the coast have old, T-54 tanks and wheeled AFVs, so China prepares for military operations in the west, not the east or Pacific coast. China controls firearms strictly, so muslim rebels mostly fight with knives (12″), clubs (4″x2″ x 4′ long), and, recently, homemade explosives, but China’s police have maintained control. The western borders have high mountain passes about 9,000 feet along roads and 10,000 to 14,000 feet in between, so smuggling is difficult against satellites, air and ground drones, aircraft, and extensive border guard patrols.

The ADIZ in the Pacific and the proposed ADIZ in the South China Sea is consistent with protecting China from a 9-11 attack from the sea. The Philippines has been fighting muslim rebels in its southern islands for many years, and the Bali bombings in Indonesia and subsequent actions coupled with incidents along the Thai-Malaysia border reveal potential threats to China’s eastern and southern coastal areas from inbound airliners.

The most probable reason for the US Naval intelligence officer’s comments was the naval exercise by 14 Russian and 8 Chinese warships in the Peter the Great Bay that opens into the Sea of Japan in September of 2013. This large naval display by the two allies revealed a surprising amount of firepower that the two allies can muster in combined operations. Both allies have territorial disputes with Japan, and some in the US and Japan may have considered the exercises directed at them. On the other hand, it sends a strong signal that muslim rebels cannot defeat Russia and China.

Feb 22, 2014 1:17pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.