Friday, June 19, 2009

U.S., Chinese military officials to meet next week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. and Chinese military officials will meet next week to discuss North Korea and maritime conflicts with the aim of improving cooperation between Beijing and Washington, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy will meet with Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, in Beijing on June 23 and 24, a senior Pentagon official said.
"North Korea will factor in very strongly," the official said. "We've learned that there's a lot of common interest here in international consensus to moderate North Korean behavior."
The first military-to-military talks between the United States and China since December 2007 are not expected to yield any landmark agreements but simply improve the lines of communication as China expands its military power.
China and the United States have been working together to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
North Korea conducted a nuclear test on May 25 and may be looking to launch a long-range missile toward Hawaii after the United Nations punished Pyongyang by toughening sanctions.
The U.S. Navy is tracking a North Korean ship under the new sanctions that bar Pyongyang from trading in weapons, including missile parts and nuclear material.
China's build-up of sea power has raised concerns in the United States, heightened by a series of standoffs in recent months between U.S. and Chinese ships.
Flournoy's visit will hopefully initiate more frequent meetings between military officials to ensure such incidents do not spiral out of control, the Pentagon official said.
"That's part of the rationale ... so we can understand their continuing buildup and make sure that the conditions for stability and peace are maintained," the official said.
After visiting Beijing, Flournoy will travel to Tokyo on June 25 and Seoul on June 26, the official said.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: Reuters

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