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Talks between Chinese, US defense chiefs boost understanding

Updated: Apr 9,2014 4:54 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING - A visit meant to build military ties between China and the US has revealed just how much work needs to be done. Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have aired their differences in Beijing. Chang Wangqun says the visit will help Washington better understand China and its military. Hagel says the US is committed to building a constructive and productive relationship. The two leaders agree there are differences that need to overcome.

Moving to keep the communications channel open.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is welcomed by Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan.

It’s their first meeting in China for Hagel as Defense Secretary. His visit is seen as a sign of stable US-China military relations, despite many twists and turns.

Chang Wanquan emphasized his mission to build “a new model of military to military relationship” based on respecting core interests, and win-win cooperation.

Hagel says US-China relations are important for security and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and for achieving prosperity for both nations in the 21st Century.

The two leaders say they had constructive and candid talks. But they sharply disagree on a number of issues.

“The territorial sovereignty issue is China’s core interest. We will make no compromise or concession. No trading, not even an iota of violation is allowed. China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and their adjacent waters and the South China Sea. China stands ready to resolve disputes with countries directly involved,” Chang Wanquan said.

“All parties should refrain from provocative actions in the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression to advance their claims,” Chuck Hagel said.

Washington has repeatedly said it does not take position on disputes, including the Diaoyu Islands. But Hagel says the Diaoyus fall under the protection of a US-Japan security treaty.

“We think the review of the self-defense aspect their constitution is right and important, as a great power, Japan has the responsibilities. We support that review and the decision the Japanese people make,” Chuck Hagel said.

“Complete responsibility for all the problems rests with Japan. We hope the US could stay vigilant against Japan’s actions and not tolerate and abet evils that could bring disaster to all,” Chang Wanquan said.

At a time when Hagel is in China to build ties, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill to continue arms sales to Taiwan. China strongly condemns the act.

“The arms sales to Taiwan are in serious violation of the China-US joint communiqués and the principles between the two countries, and a severe intervention in China’s domestic affairs. We urge the US to stop advancing its approval and to take concrete measures to prevent it from undermining China-US relations,” Chang Wanquan said.

Despite all the verbal confrontation, both leaders say the visit has produced common understanding. And there’s much to be done to achieve the new model of military-to-military relations.

Given the differences on a number of key issues of core interest, both China and the US are aware of the potential for clashes. They know they need to increase understanding to minimize the risks for military ones. China wants the US to show it’s sincere about improving ties, while the US says Hagel’s visit is a sign of that very thing.