July 26, 2018 / 9:58 AM / a month ago

Despite tension, Chinese, U.S. militaries to host health meet

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese and U.S. militaries will jointly host a regional health meeting for armed forces in September, the Asian nation said on Thursday, despite tension over trade and security issues such as the South China Sea.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags are set up for a meeting in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

China has been keen to highlight its cooperation with the U.S. military, despite a bitter trade war and Chinese suspicion at U.S. support for self-ruled, and Chinese-claimed, Taiwan, and its involvement in the disputed South China Sea.

China has praised the tone of last month’s visit to Beijing by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, saying it achieved positive results and that Defence Minister Wei Fenghe would go to Washington this year.

Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a monthly briefing the two nation’s militaries would jointly hold the Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange in China’s city of Xian from Sept. 17 to 21.

About 600 people will participate, with military officials from 28 countries, including Singapore and Thailand, as well as officials of the United Nations, the Red Cross and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations coming, he added.

At the event, China’s armed forces will show off new equipment used for medical purposes, such as aircraft and vehicles, he said.

China and the United States also carry out joint disaster relief drills, one of which was held in the U.S. state of Oregon last November.

It has not been all plain sailing for the ties between the two militaries.

China was angered in May when the United States withdrew an invitation to a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and cooperation.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise and held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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