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US, China to step up military, space cooperation

BEIJING (AFP/PTI): China and the United States pledged today to step up military exchanges and safeguard the peaceful use of outer space after talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and visiting US leader Barack Obama.

The two countries vowed to take "concrete steps to advance sustained and reliable military-to-military relations in the future," according to a joint statement released after their summit in the Chinese capital.

The statement added both sides were preparing for an exchange of visits between top defence officials, including General Chen Bingde, chief of the Chinese military's general staff, and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

It gave no time frame for the visits.

Military tensions between the countries have emerged recently, fuelled by an armed forces build-up by China and a series of confrontations at sea.

Both sides will implement military exchange and cooperation programmes that will increase the "level and frequency of exchanges," the statement said.

"The goal of these efforts is to improve their capabilities for practical cooperation and foster greater understanding of each other's intentions and of the international security environment."

They also promised to consult more on each other's activities in space, amid an aggressive expansion in China's space capabilities including recent manned space launches and other missions, and to avoid the militarisation of space.

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