Senior U.S. and Russian navy officers have agreed on a program of expanded exercises and exchanges next year during four days of annual meetings. The top American and Russian officers at the talks spoke to reporters at the Pentagon on a teleconference.

Russian Vice Admiral Vladimir Avdoshin says the U.S. and Russian navies will participate in exercises, port calls and visits by senior commanders all around the world.

The admiral says the U.S.-Russian naval exercises will concentrate on building capabilities for search and rescue, natural disaster relief and to prevent what he called 'illegal activities at sea.'

His American counterpart, Rear Admiral D.C. Curtis, said those bi-lateral exercises, and Russia's first-time participation in NATO's annual Active Endeavor exercise in the Mediterranean, are designed to send a message anyone who wants to use the seas for illegal purposes.

"Our Russian friends, just like our friends in the Med and our partners, are concerned about safety and security, our maritime security," said Admiral Curtis. "There are a lot of bad things at sea that we know and Active Endeavor is a great deterrent to make people think twice about the illegal trafficking of drugs and possibly of terrorists on our shores."

The U.S. and Russian admirals said communication between the two navies has improved so much that there were no reported incidents or misunderstandings at sea during the past year. These annual talks are mandated by a 1972 agreement, and Admiral Avdoshin said all pending issues were resolved.

Admiral Avdoshin also reported that the two navies already cooperate whenever a surface vessel is in distress, and he said he expects a bi-lateral group of experts to present a draft agreement soon for cooperation on submarine rescues. The United States provided assistance to Russia last year during a submarine emergency in the northern Pacific, but there is no formal agreement for such cooperation.