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China-U.S. Meeting "Very Constructive," Pentagon Official Says

Discussions last week involving high-level U.S. and Chinese defense officials were "very constructive," the Pentagon's lead delegate said on Thursday (see GSN, Dec. 8).

The sides addressed matters involving the Asia-Pacific sector, the Middle East and North Africa, Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy said after leading talks with a team headed by People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ma Xiaotian.

“We also discussed our continued work together in counterpiracy and humanitarian assistance, nonproliferation and transparency between our two countries,” Flournoy said.

Earlier reports indicated that the talks would also cover Iran and North Korea. Washington has sought Beijing's assistance in curtailing the North's known nuclear weapons drive and the contested atomic program in Iran.

The Pentagon's policy head reaffirmed that moves such as the placement of 2,500 U.S. Marines in Australia are not intended to "contain China; we do not view China as an adversary."

“We have the common goal of preserving peace and stability in Asia -- now and in the future -- and that we must cooperate on issues that will impact both of our countries,” she said.

"No new ground" was reached on the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea, Flournoy said. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and regularly objects to arms deals between the United States and the independently governed island. China has also been flexing its authority on the South China Sea.

Last week's talks followed a set of meetings in 2011 that included a face-to-face between U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in November. Further sessions are planned for 2012.

“We hope that that will include a number of high level visits as well as a number of joint exercises in areas such as humanitarian assistance and counterpiracy,” Flournoy said. “We do envision those activities going forward in 2012" (U.S. Defense Department release, Dec. 9).

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