The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says he agreed with a senior Chinese military officer on Tuesday to plan for joint military exercises. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Washington.
Admiral Timothy Keating says the understanding was reached during a dinner he hosted in Washington for the commander of China's Guangzhou Military Region, General Zhang Qinsheng.
"He and I shook hands, as an agreement, to take under active consideration the formulation of a plan that will lead to humanitarian assistance exercises relatively soon," said Admiral Keating.
Admiral Keating told an audience at Washington's Heritage Foundation the U.S. and Chinese navies have conducted search and rescue exercises in the past, but this would be a land-based exercise built around a simulated natural disaster. The admiral says the plan is to hold two such exercises, one in China and one in the United States. He says he hopes formal planning starts before the end of this year, with the exercises taking place 15 to 18 months later. But he also said the exercises will require agreement by the two governments and the development of a detailed plan by military officers from the two sides.
If the exercises happen, they would be a further step in the effort to build trust between the American and Chinese militaries. Admiral Keating says that is important as China continues to build its military capability, an effort that some Chinese leaders want to expand to what the admiral calls 'high-end' capabilities, such as aircraft carriers.
Admiral Keating says he has urged Chinese officials not to do that, but he says if they do the security impact can be eased through the kind of trust that joint exercises can build.
"As long as we do everything in our power to enhance the trust that is developing, I mean, it's extant now and we continue to work on it, I don't worry near so much about the development of those high-end options," he said. "And I worry even less about the employment of those high end options. And I would hope, over time, to engage in exercises that would be indicative of a transparency for use of those systems, and development of those systems, that doesn't exist today."
Admiral Keating said the United States is committed to maintaining its military "preeminence" in the Pacific, but wants to build partnerships with as many countries in the region as possible, including China.