China pleased after watching U.S. wargames By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 22, 9:20 AM ET
SHANGHAI, China - Chinese military observers said Thursday that observing U.S. military exercises in the Pacific this week gave them a better understanding of U.S. weapons and tactics.
Delegation leader Rear Adm. Zhang Leiyu called the visit to the war games near Guam "a positive step in China-U.S. military ties," the official Xinhua News agency reported.
It was the first time a delegation from China had been invited to officially observe U.S. maneuvers in the Pacific, where China and the U.S. face potential conflicts over Taiwan.
"The visit helped China obtain a better understanding of U.S. weapons, training, skills and exercise arrangements," said Zhang, a navy vice chief of staff and commandant of China's Naval Submarine Academy.
Dubbed "Valiant Shield," the exercises brought three carriers together in the Pacific for the first time since the Vietnam War. Some 30 ships, 280 aircraft and 22,000 troops participated in the five-day war games, which ended Thursday.
Zhang's assessment of the exercises will likely be welcomed by exchange advocates, who argue Chinese exposure to advanced U.S. capabilities reduces the chances of misunderstandings or clashes.
However, the comments may arouse concern among exchange opponents. They say China gains valuable information about the U.S. military without giving away anything in return about their own 2.3 million-member armed forces — the world's largest.
Adm. William J. Fallon, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific who invited the Chinese delegation, said before the exercises began that he expected China to reciprocate. However, neither Zhang or the Xinhua report gave any indication that such an invitation was forthcoming.
The two countries' militaries have had their share of friction in the past, including fighting against each other in the Korean War. In 1996, the U.S. Navy sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the waters near Taiwan amid Chinese war games to intimidate the self-governing island, whose defense Washington is legally bound to assist.
China and Taiwan split in 1949 amid civil war, and Beijing has threatened to attack if the island continues to resist unification.
This week's maneuvers were part of U.S. efforts to reinvigorate exchanges between the two militaries, which have had little interaction since a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter over the South China Sea in 2001.
Later Thursday, Xinhua said China is "open" to military exchanges with the United States, and that it is willing to promote bilateral defense and security cooperation, citing remarks by Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan.
Tang made the remarks following a meeting with a delegation of the American Foreign Policy Council, a nonprofit organization. The delegation was led by retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Xinhua said