chief as Washington renews its effort to forge a defence dialogue with
Beijing despite tensions and mutual distrust.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde starts
a week-long visit Sunday to the United States, the first trip to
America by the country’s top-ranking officer in seven years, officials
Chen will tour four military bases, deliver a speech to American
officers and hold talks with his US counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen,
Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a
senior defence official said Friday.
“We’ve pulled out all the stops” for the visit, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Military relations between the two economic powers have been strained
and lagged behind diplomatic and trade ties, with Beijing objecting to
US arms sales to Taiwan while Washington has voiced concern about
China’s military buildup.
Gates and other US officials have appealed to China to agree to a more
reliable dialogue that could help defuse tensions and avoid potential
misunderstandings, similar to ties that were built up between the
Americans and the Soviets during the Cold War.
“What we’re really looking for is a relationship that there’s some
mutual transparency and trust developed between us. So that if there is
some incident or some disagreement, it’s a relationship that we can
depend on,” the official said.
The Pentagon did not expect a breakthrough during Chen’s visit but the
official said Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, hoped to
persuade Chen to agree to more regularly scheduled discussions.
“We will discuss options for more contact, with some established rhythm,
periodic phone conversations, something like that,” he said.
The last US visit by a senior leader from the PLA was in 2009, when
General Xu Caihou came to Washington and toured military bases.
When the US defence secretary paid a high-profile visit to Beijing in
January, the Chinese military upstaged Gates with an inaugural test
flight of the country’s J-20 stealth fighter.
Chen was expected to offer his view of military relations at a speech on
Wednesday at National Defence University after holding talks on Tuesday
with Mullen and senior military staff in “the tank” meeting room at the
Over the course of the week, the Chinese general is due to get a
first-hand look at US naval warships in Norfolk, Virginia, a “live fire”
exercise at Fort Stewart army base in Georgia, fighter aircraft at
Nellis Air Force in Nevada and the military’s National Training Centre
Chen also plans to attend a concert Monday at Washington’s Kennedy
Centre with bands from the US Army and the PLA performing. US officials
said it will mark the first time a PLA band has ever played in the
Chen’s visit comes after the United States said Wednesday it wanted to
set guidelines with Beijing on the use of space, voicing worries that
the Asian power is increasingly able to destroy or jam satellites.