HONG KONG — The commander of American forces in the Pacific said Wednesday that he hoped a visit to the region by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would lead to a resumption of high-level military exchanges with China.
“We hope she gets some traction, and we’re hoping for a resumption of that dialogue,” Adm. Timothy J. Keating, head of U.S. Pacific Command, said at a briefing in Hong Kong.
The official China Daily newspaper reported on Monday that the mainland was prepared to resume a dialogue between senior military officials. The report cited a Defense Ministry spokesman, Hu Changming, who said that discussions would be kept informal.
Mrs. Clinton also indicated in a speech last week that contacts between the two countries’ militaries would resume. But the two sides have not yet approved a date for doing so, nor have they agreed on who might attend.
Mrs. Clinton, on her first trip abroad for President Obama, was in Indonesia on Wednesday. She was scheduled to visit South Korea before arriving in Beijing on Friday.
China, angered over a major U.S. arms deal with Taiwan, broke off senior-level military exchanges with Washington last October. A defense white paper issued last month by the Chinese military said the arms sale had done “serious harm” to bilateral relations.
Admiral Keating confirmed Wednesday there was “no question” that the weapons deal, estimated to be worth $6.5 billion, had led to a suspension of what is colloquially known as the ‘’mil-to-mil relationship.”
“It’s our desire to have more exchanges with the Chinese,” Admiral Keating said. “We want to do more with them.”
He also offered to host face-to-face talks between Chinese and Taiwanese military officials at his headquarters in Hawaii. He said an easing of tensions between the two rivals was a U.S. priority, and he noted that the risk of military discord was “not insignificant to those of us in the region.”
The militaries of mainland China and Taiwan have had no contact for many years.
President Ma Ying-jeou took office last May with a campaign pledge to improve economic relations with the mainland and establish confidence-building measures, like a hotline, between the military establishments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Although a series of economic agreements have been reached — resulting in increased tourism, trade and direct transportation between Taiwan and the mainland — the People’s Liberation Army has shown little interest in discussions with Taiwan’s military.
In an interview in Taipei last week, President Ma said that the economic issues were more urgent, but he noted that Chinese President Hu Jintao had mentioned an interest in security cooperation and confidence-building measures in a statement on Dec. 31.
“We have made our intentions known to them,” Mr. Ma said, “and their positive responses have already created a more peaceful environment between the two sides in the international arena.”
Chiang Pin-kung, the chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, the semi-official institution that handles Taiwan’s negotiations with the mainland, said in a separate interview last week in Taipei that the foundation had a hotline to its mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
Admiral Keating said he was encouraged by a more relaxed atmosphere, mentioning direct mail service and even the exchange of exotic animals. He called the developments helpful and important, “if not exactly earth-shattering.”
But he also expressed frustration over what the U.S. military considers a continuing lack of transparency on the part of senior military officials in China. Washington remains concerned about Chinese military expansion, he said, in the development of area-denial weapons, anti-satellite operations and cyber-warfare.
Increasing patrols and farther deployments of Chinese submarines were less worrisome, Admiral Keating said, than Beijing’s lack of clarity about its intentions. He described the military’s recent white paper as “not as forthcoming as the Chinese think it is.”
The last time he visited a senior general in Beijing, he said, he saw several telephones on the man’s desk and asked for his personal phone number so they could speak directly.
“He said he didn’t have a phone number yet,” the admiral said, rolling his eyes. “That’s frustrating.”
Admiral Keating did say a military hotline has been installed between Beijing and Hawaii. “It exists now. It works now. I’ve used it.”
The last time he called Beijing, he said, was in May, when he alerted Chinese officials that two U.S. military cargo planes were en route to China with humanitarian aid for victims of the Sichuan earthquake.
China’s goal of building one or more aircraft carriers was an ambitious one, Admiral Keating said, and he offered to give Chinese officers a tour of some American carriers.
But operating carriers at sea, he said, was difficult and expensive — “harder than they might think it will be right now.”
He said U.S. naval forces “would be willing to work with Chinese aircraft carriers,” just as they have cooperated with a small Chinese task force that has been operating in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
“They’re doing a good job,” he said of the two Chinese destroyers and a supply ship. “I congratulate them on a successful deployment. It’s hard to do.”
Admiral Keating said, than Beijing’s lack of clarity about its intentions. He described the military’s recent white paper as “not as forthcoming as the Chinese think it is.”
would be willing to work with Chinese aircraft carriers ? 美国帮助中国建造航母么。。。