Chinese and American officials recognize the importance of maintaining good, uninterrupted military-to-military relations, and the U.S. Pacific Command will do whatever it can to further that goal, commander Samuel Locklear was quoted as saying Thursday.
"They (China) are an emerging power, and we are a mature power. How they emerge, and how we encourage them will be an important key to both China and the United States," Locklear told the American Forces Press Service in an interview.
Having better military-to-military communications will allow both the U.S. and China to understand each other, which is "for the good of the global security environment," he said.
Military-to-military contacts are one way to build trust between the nations, so when things happen, the commanders can reach out to one another. Sometimes it's impossible for capitals to talk to each other, but commanders with these types of contacts can calm things down a bit, Locklear said.
On his recent visit to China, Locklear said that he was encouraged by the progress made on promoting the U.S.-China military-to-military relations despite some differences. "I'm hopeful that we can continue to have a dialogue and just talk together," the commander said.
Although the two sides don't agree on everything, "I do believe we should not allow those disagreements prevent us from understanding each other in the places that we can, and allow us to control our appetite for disagreement," he said.
On the South China Sea territorial disputes between China and several Southeastern countries, Locklear reiterated that the U.S. "doesn't take sides on competing territorial claims" and encourages the relevant parties to resolve the disputes through peaceful means.
He added that U.S. forces "will continue to preserve the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea guaranteed to all nations by conducting freedom of navigation missions in the area."
The U.S.-China military ties have been brought to back on track since early 2011, after they were interrupted by the U.S. announcement of a massive arms sales deal to Taiwan in January 2010. Then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited China in January 2011 to restore the ties and Chen Bingde, chief of General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army, paid a reciprocal visit to the U.S. four months later.
China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie just concluded a visit to the U.S. on May 4-10, during which he held a series of meetings with top U.S. government and military officials on further advancing bilateral military cooperation and on reducing misunderstanding between the two militaries. Liang is the first Chinese defense chief to visit the U.S. in nine years.