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China’s military to seek more foreign exchanges

BEIJING (AP) ― China said Thursday that its military, under fire for a lack of transparency, will emphasize confidence-building measures and seek more exchanges with foreign militaries.

The proposals in a policy white paper issued every two years follow complaints from the United States and other countries that China has not adequately explained the goals of its rapid military expansion in the last three decades.

The United States and China are sometimes global competitors for markets, influence and increasingly for military bragging rights.

Strained relations between the two militaries improved slightly when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited China in January.

That follows a particularly rocky 2010 in which China expanded its military reach and firepower, quarreled with U.S. allies over Pacific territory and broke off the few flimsy military ties it had allowed with the United States.
Chinese soldiers prepare to take part in a military exercise in Hefei east in China’s Anhui province. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Chinese soldiers prepare to take part in a military exercise in Hefei east in China’s Anhui province. (AFP-Yonhap News)

The two militaries appear to be engaged in a test of wills in the Pacific, as China begins to challenge the century-old assumption that the United States is the pre-eminent military power there.

“The United States is reinforcing its regional military alliances, and increasing its involvement in regional security affairs,” the report said.

China has made significant gains toward fielding a missile system designed to sink a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 3,200 kilometers away, the U.S. military said earlier this year.

The so-called “carrier-killer” missile and a new showpiece stealth fighter jet may not be a match for U.S. systems, but they represent rapid advances for China’s homegrown technology and defense manufacturing.

But the two sides are also diplomatic partners, with the Obama administration leaning on China to tighten the leash on its erratic ally North Korea, which last year come close to open conflict with South Korea.

The paper repeated Chinese irritation with U.S. support for Taiwan. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and said U.S. sales of armaments to the island were “severely impeding Sino-U.S. relations and impairing the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”

The report also highlighted China’s role in sending military ships to take an anti-piracy role in the Gulf of Aden off lawless Somalia.

The ships work alongside those from NATO nations, Russia and India, and are credited with thwarting piracy in the sea corridor between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean that is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes. Chinese commercial ships have been among those hijacked and held for ransom by the pirates.