US warns over Beijing's 'assertiveness'
By Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Published: May 25 2010 17:50 | Last updated: May 25 2010 23:59
The commander of US forces in the Pacific has warned that China's military is more aggressively asserting its territorial claims in regional waters.
Admiral Robert Willard told the Financial Times: "There has been an assertiveness that has been growing over time, particularly in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea."
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He said China's extensive claims to islands and waters in the region were "generating increasing concern broadly across the region and require address".
The admiral's remarks follow complaints by Japan in recent weeks about aggressive behaviour from a Chinese coastguard vessel in contested waters and a Chinese military helicopter in international waters.
Some of China's neighbours have been watching the People's Liberation Army's modernisation and efforts at expanding the navy's reach with unease, and defence experts see this expansion as one factor behind a developing arms race in south-east Asia.
Adm Willard said the US viewed China's growing influence in Asia as positive. But Beijing needed to be more transparent, not only with the US but also with its neighbours.
Adm Willard was speaking ahead of talks with Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, the first meeting between senior US and Chinese military officers since Beijing suspended bilateral military-to-military dialogue in January after US arms sales to Taiwan.
"US-China military dialogue is officially still in suspension," said Adm Willard, who visited Beijing at the invitation of Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, in the context of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the bilateral exchanges that concluded on Tuesday.
But he interpreted the fact that Beijing had agreed to his presence as a sign it viewed some high-level exchanges as beneficial.
"What was very striking yesterday was my impression of the very advanced, sophisticated and mature dialogue that's occurring across a wide range of subjects between China and the US," he said.
"That is in contrast with a very immature military-to-military relationship."
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