By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan today announced that their countries will take a series of steps to improve military-to-military relations.
Establishing better military-to-military relations between the United States and China is important to the overall bilateral relationship, Hagel said.
“The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems,” the secretary said. The secretary announced he has accepted Chang’s invitation to visit China next year, a move that highlights contacts between the two nations at the highest military levels.
Contacts between service members will build trust, both Hagel and Chang said. The two men led delegations discussing the way forward and agreed to a number of steps.
The United States has invited the Chinese to attend next year’s Rim of the Pacific multilateral naval exercise, Hagel said.
Also, Chang and Hagel agreed to expand the current system of defense exchanges and joint exercises. Some examples include Chinese midshipmen joining a multinational exchange program at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement Working Group meeting in Hawaii today to discuss humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“And this weekend, our navies will conduct another counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden, building on the first-ever joint counter-piracy exercise we held last year,” Hagel said.
Hagel and Chang also agreed to set up an exchange mechanism between the People’s Liberation Army’s strategic planning department and the Joint Staff’s strategic, plans and policy directorate.
“We also agreed to take use of mechanisms, such as defense consultative talks, military maritime consultative agreements, to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and continue to study the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities,” Chang said through an interpreter.
The two men also discussed the recently established U.S.-China cyber working group and steps to strengthen it.
Hagel said he and Chang also discussed regional security issues, including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
Chang emphasized a number of times that it is his mission to build “a new model of major country relationship” between China and the U.S. based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
“At present, the China-U.S. relationship is in a new historical era,” he said. “Building a new model of China-U.S. military relationship can help us to increase strategic trust to reduce strategic risks and to maintain world peace and regional stability.”
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