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China's Army chief embarks on US visit


BEIJING (PTI): China's Army chief Chen Bingde on Sunday embarked on a crucial week-long visit to Washington to hold a comprehensive defence dialogue with the US in a bid to boost ties between the two militaries.

Chen, the Chief of the General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), is the first top Chinese General in seven years to hold comprehensive defence dialogue between the two countries.

China expects to promote the establishment of a new-type military relationship with the US through Chen's visit, featuring mutual respect and reciprocal beneficial cooperation, said Qian Lihua, director of the Foreign Affairs Office with the National Defense Ministry.

"It demonstrates the importance Admiral Mullen (Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff) attaches to Chen's visit and the positive attitude the United States has to developing relations between the two militaries," Huang Xueping, an official with the National Defense Ministry, was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

Chen will address China's position on three major obstacles hindering China-US military relations during his visit, Qian said.

The three included US arms sales to Taiwan, frequent reconnaissance by American naval ships and aircraft in the waters and airspace of China's exclusive economic zones, and the restrictions imposed by some US domestic laws on exchanges and technical cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries.

"China hopes the US will respect China's reasonable concern on the three issues and adopt feasible measures to resolve them," he said.

The visit is part of efforts to implement the consensus reached between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his US counterpart President Barack Obama.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to China in January helped mend bilateral military ties after several controversies last year. Also, the defence ministries of the two nations held their seventh working-level meeting in April.

China and the US have resumed military exchanges.

In addition to talks with Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chen will meet with Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Tom Donilon.

Chen will also deliver a speech at the National Defense University.

Chen's entourage includes a political commissar of the Second Artillery Force, deputy commanders of Military Area Commands and an intelligence department chief of the General Staff Headquarters, among others.

Chen will visit Naval Station Norfolk, Fort Stewart, Nellis Air Force Base and the US Army's National Training Center – some of which have not been opened to visiting military leaders for years – as part of the US high-profile reception.

The two countries recently concluded their bilateral Strategic Security Dialogue in Washington where representatives from the two militaries also took part.

US military universities sent delegations to China in March and April. The PLA Military Band is now making its first ever visit to the US since the two countries forged diplomatic relations in 1979.

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