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US invites China to take part in biggest naval drill

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BEIJING (PTI): The US has invited China to take part in the world's biggest maritime drills, amid growing concerns in Beijing over Washington's new policy of deploying majority of its defence assets in Asia Pacific aimed at containing Beijing.

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta who held talks with Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie in Beijing on Tuesday invited China to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC).

The biannual exercise, hosted by the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, is the world's largest maritime exercise.

Navies of 22 countries took part in it this year, while China has been omitted out of it, which Chinese defence officials said was deliberately aimed at slighting Beijing.

"The US Navy will invite China to send a ship to participate in the RIMPAC 2014 exercise," Panetta said.

"We note that the US and China just this week participated in a very successful counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden. These exercises enhance the ability of our navies to work together to 'combat' the common threat of piracy," Panetta told a joint press conference with Liang after their talks.

Panetta said US goal "is to have the United States and China establish the most important bilateral relationship in the world. And the key to that is to establish a strong military-to-military relationship."

"We also discussed establishing peacekeeping exchanges between our two militaries to enhance our capabilities in this critical area," he said.

The US hopes to learn from China's experiences in leading UN peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and Western Sahara, he said.

Panetta also said that the US intends to establish a relationship with China that is healthy, stable, reliable and continuous.

"The key is to have senior-level interactions that we are engaging in to reduce the potential of miscalculation, and boost real understanding and expand trust between our countries," he said.

Panetta arrived in Beijing on Monday evening, kicking off his first visit to China as Pentagon chief.

During his visit, he is also scheduled to meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is set to succeed President Hu Jintao next year.

Xi, who reportedly suffered a back injury while swimming, resumed his duties setting at rest rumours about his illness.

China is the second leg of the week-long Asia-Pacific visit for Panetta. He visited Japan before arriving in China, and will wrap up his trip in New Zealand.

The US-China relationship requires long-term perspective. The progress will not only benefit China and the US, but will also contribute to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, the Defence Secretary said.

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US  China  Naval Drill  Defence  
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