US 'should explain' Australia military plans

Updated: 2011-12-09 07:46

By Li Xiaokun and Ma Liyao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A top Chinese military official has asked his US counterpart to explain Washington's intention to expand its military presence in Australia during their annual defense talks, the US official said on Thursday, one day after the talks.

Michele Flournoy, US undersecretary of defense for policy, told Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army General Staff, that Washington's planned deployment in Australia is not aimed at containing China.

Flournoy made the remarks at a briefing at the US embassy in Beijing.

She said Ma asked about Washington's intentions behind the plan to locate as many as 2,500 US Marines as well as aircraft and ships at a base in Darwin, northern Australia.

"We assured General Ma and his delegation that the US does not seek to contain China. We do not view China as an adversary," she said, adding that the moves were "first and foremost" about strengthening US-Australia ties.

US President Barack Obama announced the deployment plan on a trip to Asia last month, during which he said the US was "here to stay" in the region.

China's military denounced the plan, warning that it could erode trust and fan Cold War-style antagonism.

Flournoy also said the two countries were hoping to hold military exchanges and joint counter-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden that had been postponed in the wake of US arms sales to Taiwan.

The China-US defense consultative talks (DCT) were held on Wednesday in the Chinese capital. This was the first high-level meeting of US and Chinese defense officials since Washington angered Beijing in September by announcing an arms deal with Taiwan.

Beijing later delayed some planned military exchanges with the US.

A news release issued by the Ministry of National Defense on Thursday said the DCT was "candid and constructive" and "reached the expected target".

"The view that 'conflicts between the US and China are inevitable' is completely incorrect," Flournoy said during the talks, according to the news release.

Ma told Flournoy he believed a healthy and stable relationship between the two militaries helps "control crises and prevent risks".

He said at the start of the talks that the fact that this round of the DCT took place as scheduled showed that both countries are "sincere about maintaining military exchanges".

In January 2010, Washington announced a $6.4-billion arms sale package for Taiwan, which led to limited military contact between China and the US for almost a year, until then US secretary of defense Robert Gates visited China in January 2011.

Although the consultations took place as scheduled, the issue of arms sales to Taiwan could not be avoided, said Luo Yuan, a researcher with the PLA's Academy of Military Science.

Ma urged the US side to remove the obstacles to promoting China-US military relations during the consultations, according to the news release.

Arms sales to Taiwan serve to restrict the two militaries' contacts, and reconnaissance activities by US aircraft and ships remain major obstacles, Ma said.

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