WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Chinese general will visit the United States this month and tour major U.S. bases as Washington seeks to improve relations and reduce the risk of conflict, officials said on Wednesday.
Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the People’s Liberation Army Central Military Commission, is China’s second-highest ranking military officer and will visit the United States between October 24-31, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
In addition to meeting Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Oct 26, Xu will visit U.S. Strategic Command, Pacific Command and other major bases.
The visit follows a trip by Gates to China two years ago and was part of an effort to improve “trust and transparency” between the two militaries, Morrell said.
“There is huge value in fostering better military-to-military relations between our two countries,” he said. “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’s stage.”
China’s build-up of sea power has raised concerns in the United States.
Chinese vessels have confronted U.S. surveillance ships in Asian waters repeatedly this year and Beijing has called on the United States to reduce and eventually halt air and sea military surveillance close to its shores.
Last month, U.S. intelligence agencies in a report singled out China as a challenge to the United States because of its “increasing natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernization.”
President Barack Obama, who plans to visit China next month, has highlighted the importance of improving military-to-military cooperation between the countries.
The outgoing U.S. Pacific Command head, Admiral Timothy Keating, has reached out to Chinese leaders, offering the prospect of holding joint military exercises, but the response from Beijing was cool, officials said.
Reporting by Adam Entous and Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman