The current naval relations between the China and the United States are “best in history,” and its coordination with each other will become more systematic in the future, according to the Chinese naval chief on Friday.
Admiral Wu Shengli, the Chief of Naval Operations of China said, “At present, relations between the Chinese and U.S. navies are at their best time in history. Exchanges and communications are more trusting and effective.” He added, “In the future, exchanges between frontline forces from both countries will gradually become more systematic,”
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Admiral Wu made his statement after a delegation of U.S. Navy officers including 27 commanders and captains visited the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. They also visited a submarine academy. The Chinese and U.S. Navy officers discussed”exercise management, personnel training, medical protection, and strategies for career development.
According to Admiral Wu, China and the United States are working hard to increasing military interaction, conducting joint exercises, and agreeing on rules of encounters at sea and in the air.
The discussions between naval officers of the China and United States came after Washington indicated its plan to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands built by Beijing in the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Washington did not mention any specific date for its planned freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea. Political observers suggest that such move by Washington shows that it does not recognize China’s claim over the disputed islands in the South China Sea—which will irritate the Chinese government.
Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the China Naval Research Institute, commented that the move of the Chinese navy to introduce its first and only aircraft carrier was an “open and transparent gesture to demonstrate the country’s confidence and sincerity.”
Mr. Shang added that the visit is a step toward building a new type of major power relations, which is one of the objectives of Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama.
Furthermore, Mr. Zhang emphasized that such visit between naval officers of Chin and the United States are “positive move that will help help prevent misunderstanding and misjudgments in the South China Sea issue.”
On the other hand, Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing commented that developing trust and understanding can’t be done in one day or by a single move. He pointed out that China and the United States should establish regular exchanges regarding military equipment, technology and strategies to create a comprehensive and multi-dimensional image of each other.
US policymakers to decide over planned South China Sea patrol
The top commander of the US Navy in the Pacific said the policymakers in Washington will decide regarding the planned freedom-of-navigation operations within the 12 nautical miles of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said his sailors have the ability and capacity to enter the South China Sea, but he pointed out that the patrols would not be directed at a specific country, and it would reinforce international laws.
“We’re ready.We have the resources to support whatever those policy decisions are and whatever policymakers may ask us to do to demonstrate the U.S. resolve with respect to the operations that we conduct in the South China Sea,” said Admiral Swift.
Admiral Swift pointed out that building an island that only appears at low tide, but not on a high tide does not boost a territorial claim under international laws. He also emphasized that the United States does not support any land reclamation efforts regardless of the scale.
According to Swift, the operations of the Pacific Fleet in the South China remain the same even if China constructed artificial islands in the area. He said, “We continue to operate in that space, just as if they hadn’t built.” He added that its operations would not change going forward.
Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States will fly and operate wherever international law permits, including in the South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy will soon receive approval for a mission to sail near the artificial island built by China in the Spratly Islands, according to the Navy Times earlier this month.