Panetta: Deeper Military Ties Key to Enhancing Trust with China

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says deeper military ties between Washington and Beijing can help ease mutual suspicions and avoid miscalculations between the two world powers.

Panetta made his comments Tuesday following a meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie. He also defended Washington's increased involvement in Asia, saying that both countries can work together for the good of the region.

“We have always tried to advance the security of the entire region, going back to World War II. And so our purpose in being able to strengthen our presence in this region is to promote greater prosperity, to promote greater security in the Asia-Pacific region. It is in both the interest of the United States and China to advance a strong Asia-Pacific region that represents in many ways the future of the 21st century.”

Both Washington and Beijing have expressed concern at each others' intentions in the region. China suspects that the U.S. “pivot” towards Asia is meant to contain Beijing's rise, while the U.S. has criticized China for its increased regional assertiveness. For his part, Liang defended China's rapidly expanding military and economic influence.

“Indeed, China's military has been growing. However, it is in any sense commensurate with the growth of China's economy. Or, to be more specific, the growth rate of China's defense budget, for example, is less than that of growth of GDP annually.”

Both sides took steps Tuesday to enhance military ties. Panetta said Washington has invited a Chinese warship to participate in the U.S.-sponsored Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises in 2014. Chinese officials invited Panetta to visit a naval base during his current visit.

Panetta's visit came as China and Japan – an American ally – are involved in an increasingly bitter dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea. The defense chief urged both sides to show restraint, saying a conflict would not be in the interest of either China or Japan.