US admiral: China naval strength no surprise
The growth of China's navy is in line with its economy and "it's no surprise to see it develop the way that it has", a top US naval officer said on Sunday.
"The advancement and growth of the PLA navy are consistent with China's economic advancement and its role in a globalized world," Admiral Gary Roughead, US Chief of Naval Operations, said at a news conference in Beijing.
Roughead soothed worries in some quarters about China's plan to build its first aircraft carrier.
"There has been no doubt in my mind that the acquisition of an aircraft carrier and carrier aviation was something that was clearly an ambition and an objective of the PLA navy," he said.
"The advent of an aircraft carrier on the part of the PLA navy, to me, really doesn't change the nature of our operations at all."
The Pentagon, in its annual report on the Chinese military released on March 25, repeated the litany of "limited transparency". Beijing dismissed it as a distortion of facts.
The US navy chief, who met his Chinese counterpart Wu Shengli on Saturday, emphasized the importance of military exchanges between the two countries.
Tensions between the United States and China rose last month over an incident in the South China Sea. The US claimed five Chinese ships had harassed USNS Impeccable in international waters on March 8. But China said the ship was on Chinese waters and had violated international and Chinese laws.
"That's why visits like mine, relationships like mine with Wu are important."
Wu said last week that the country plans to develop a new generation of warships and aircraft.
Roughead also emphasized working with China to combat piracy in the seas off Somalia.
"The opportunity for our navies to work together against the threat of piracy is very important," he said.
Analysts said Roughead's remarks show the US is keen to strengthen military exchanges with China.
"The US intends to garner more support from the international community and demonstrate its global leadership," said Pan Zheng, a senior researcher in US strategy at National Defense University.
Beijing-based military strategist Wang Jinling said it's important for the two countries to enhance exchanges.
Roughead will attend the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PLA navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Thursday.
Twenty-one ships from 14 foreign naval forces – including the US, Mexico, France, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea – gathered in Qingdao on Sunday. They will join the fourth fleet review in China since 1949.
The event is important for the two navies, said Captain Francisco Gonzalez of Mexican ship ARM Cuauhtemoc upon arrival in Qingdao on Sunday.
Cui Xiaohuo in Qingdao contributed to the story.
(China Daily March April 20, 2009)