Chinese Observers Expect More Exchanges between China, US Militaries in Strategic Field
On his itinerary in Beijing, U.S. defense chief, Robert Gates, will visit the command of the Second Artillery Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, China's core force of strategic deterrence.Chinese observers say the visit would signal more bilateral consultations and cooperation in the strategic field.
Wu Jia has more.
Gates is the third U.S. senior official to visit the Second Artillery Force following visits by his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, in 2005 and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, in 2007.
Nie Songlai, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the PLA, says this implies the U.S. is keen to know whether China has the capability and intention to challenge its strategic advantages.
On the other hand, the researcher says by inviting Gates to visit the force, China has made a positive gesture in boosting mutual trust and military transparency.
"Exchanges between strategic forces of the two countries have taken place for some time, but they mainly remained at the second track, namely academic exchanges. The U.S. has on many occasions invited senior officers of the Second Artillery Force to visit the States, and exchange views on nuclear policy. I think the visit by Gates will further push forward governmental consultations and cooperation in this regard."
Speaking to reporters en route to Beijing, Gates expressed his concern over the emergence of what is said to be a prototype stealth jet built by China along with news of China's advances on an anti-ship missile.
Pictures and videos of runway tests of a prototype fifth-generation jet, dubbed the J-20, were posted online last week. In response, Gates confirmed that U.S. intelligence agencies had underestimated China's progress.
Nie Songlai says China's defense capacities might be a focal point during Gates' discussion with his Chinese counterparts, though he may be well aware that China is still years behind the U.S. in modernizing its forces.
According to the researcher, there are growing concerns in the U.S. that China may challenge its dominance in the West Pacific by anti-access and area denial strategies.
"A strong group in the U.S. military is advocating a shift of focus from anti-terrorism to confrontations with other powers. So the US may make the so-called 'China threat' an excuse for shifting its focus of army building and raise its capabilities in fighting a conventional war."
Chinese observers believe despite voicing concerns over China's defense capability, a main mission of Gates is to restart high-level contacts between the two militaries.
Meng Xiangqing, an expert from China's National Defense University, admits that military ties are the most underdeveloped part of the Sino-U.S. relationship.
"If the two militaries don't break the 'on again, off again cycle', bilateral ties won't be healthy and stable in the long term. We hope the U.S. could make words into action, but it will take a long time."
Military exchanges between the two sides have stalled for nearly a year after China cut bilateral military ties in protest at the proposed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
For CRI, I'm Wu Jia.