U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan speak to the media during a news conference at the Pentagon on Aug. 19. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Chinese militaries pledged to continue top-level dialogues over the next year, the top defense leaders from each nation said Monday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he “enthusiastically accepted” an invitation from Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan to visit China next year.
“I think it's fundamental to the efforts that are underway ... to develop relationships, avenues of opportunity for transparency, for understanding each other's intentions far better than we have in the past,” Hagel said during a briefing at the Pentagon with Chang.
Prior to Chang’s visit to the Pentagon, the Chinese delegation had visited US Pacific and Northern Commands and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Chang’s trip to the Pentagon is the first by Beijing’s defense chief since Gen. Liang Guanglie met with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in May 2012. Panetta visited China last September.
Continuing the trend of senior-level visits, Gen. Mark Welsh, the US Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. Raymond Odierno, US Army chief of staff, are scheduled to visit China later this year, Hagel said. At the same time, Adm. Wu Shengli, PLA Navy commander, is scheduled to visit the US later this year.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, is expected to visit China next year, Chang said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, invited Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, to visit the United States, Hagel said. Dempsey visited China earlier this year.
“[W]e both agreed that our military-to-military relationship is an important component of our overall bilateral relations and that the current military relationship is gaining a good momentum,” Chang said.
The US and China have been working to find areas of mutual partnering — such as conducting humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-piracy operations — amid tension in other areas, such as Chinese cyber attacks against US networks and territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has denied attacking US networks; however the two nations recently established a cyber working group.
Hagel and Chang agreed to set up “an exchange mechanism” between the PLA Strategic Planning Department and J5 Strategic Plans and Policy directorate of the Joint Staff, Chang said. They also agreed “to have an exploratory discussion on logistics issues in support of nontraditional security missions later this year.”