The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says he agreed with a senior
Chinese military officer on Tuesday to plan for joint military exercises. VOA's
Al Pessin reports from Washington.
Admiral Timothy Keating says the understanding
was reached during a dinner he hosted in Washington for the commander of China's
Guangzhou Military Region, General Zhang Qinsheng.
"He and I shook hands,
as an agreement, to take under active consideration the formulation of a plan
that will lead to humanitarian assistance exercises relatively soon," said
Admiral Keating told an audience at Washington's
Heritage Foundation the U.S. and Chinese navies have conducted search and rescue
exercises in the past, but this would be a land-based exercise built around a
simulated natural disaster. The admiral says the plan is to hold two such
exercises, one in China and one in the United States. He says he hopes formal
planning starts before the end of this year, with the exercises taking place 15
to 18 months later. But he also said the exercises will require agreement by the
two governments and the development of a detailed plan by military officers from
the two sides.
If the exercises happen, they would be a further step in
the effort to build trust between the American and Chinese militaries. Admiral
Keating says that is important as China continues to build its military
capability, an effort that some Chinese leaders want to expand to what the
admiral calls 'high-end' capabilities, such as aircraft carriers.
Keating says he has urged Chinese officials not to do that, but he says if they
do the security impact can be eased through the kind of trust that joint
exercises can build.
"As long as we do everything in our power to enhance
the trust that is developing, I mean, it's extant now and we continue to work on
it, I don't worry near so much about the development of those high-end options,"
he said. "And I worry even less about the employment of those high end options.
And I would hope, over time, to engage in exercises that would be indicative of
a transparency for use of those systems, and development of those systems, that
doesn't exist today."
Admiral Keating said the United States is committed
to maintaining its military "preeminence" in the Pacific, but wants to build
partnerships with as many countries in the region as possible, including China.