WASHINGTON – The United States and China agreed on Monday to expand military exchanges and exercises as part of efforts to build more stable ties.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan spelled out plans this year for senior American officers to visit China, counter-piracy drills in waters near Somalia and a humanitarian rescue exercise near Hawaii.
Hagel said he and Chang wanted to build “a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship” to bolster ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
“Our goal is to build trust between our militaries through cooperation,” Hagel told reporters.
Chang stressed a similar theme of cooperation with the United States in the Asia-Pacific, but also voiced concern about the U.S. policy of shoring up its military presence and revitalizing its alliances in the Pacific region.
“To a certain degree, these kinds of intensified military activities further complicated the situation in the region,” the Chinese general said through an interpreter. “We hope that this strategy does not target a specific country in the region.”
Chang also said “no one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territory, sovereignty, and maritime rights.”
Hagel repeated Washington’s official position that it takes no stance on East Asian maritime sovereignty questions, but insists the disputes be addressed without the use of force.