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Presumed Next Chinese Leader Says He Wants Stronger Relations With U.S.
China's presumed next leader, Xi Jinping, in a Wednesday meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said he would like to see stronger diplomatic and military relations between their two countries, Reuters reported.
"I believe that your visit will be very helpful in further advancing the state-to-state and mil-to-mil (military-to-military) relations between our two countries," Xi, the country's current vice president, said in welcoming remarks for Panetta's visit to Beijing.
Defense Department spokesman George Little said the two men held frank and productive talks that included discussion of North Korea and how to resolve quarrels between China and other Asian countries over conflicting island ownership claims.
The Pentagon is seeking a more reliable military dialogue with the People's Liberation Army. In the past, Beijing has vented its frustrations over U.S. policies on Taiwan by cutting off all military contact with Washington. The United States believes stronger military relations will lessen the chances of a strategic misunderstanding that could devolve into a crisis between the two nuclear powers.
At the same time, some Chinese hawks are suspicious that the U.S. military rebalancing toward Asia is actually aimed at containing China and not at responding to the North Korean threat as claimed by the Obama administration.
In a speech to Chinese military trainees, Panetta said the push to deploy U.S. antimissile systems in the region -- which include a newly announced second X-band radar set for Japan -- was aimed at countering the North Korean missile danger. Efforts to strengthen military relations with Asia-Pacific partner nations were aimed at improving security norms that advantage everyone, according to the Pentagon chief.
"Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China. It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific. It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers," the former CIA head said.
However, efforts by Panetta and other Obama officials to mitigate Chinese worries about U.S. defense activities with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have not been particularly successful, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies China expert Bonnie Glaser.
"The Chinese just don't buy it. They are not convinced," Glaser said. "Moreover they see the U.S. as emboldening nations like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam who have territorial disputes with China to directly confront Beijing."
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