China on Thursday urged the U.S. military to reduce its naval and air activities in the South China Sea while sticking to its stand of not taking sides on the territorial disputes there, in order to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, reaffirmed China's position on the South China Sea during his talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon Thursday.
The South China Sea issue is only an episode in the history of China-U.S. ties, and the two sides should take the higher ground to look into the far future by paying more attention to other, more important regional and international issues, said Fan, who is on a week-long visit to the United States.
The Chinese general pointed out that the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters have been China's territories since ancient times. China's construction and maintenance of facilities on some of the islands and reefs are mainly aimed at improving the living and working conditions of the residents there.
Fan reiterated that China has the right to establish military facilities on its own territories.
His visit is aimed at implementing the important consensus reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on further advancing the China-U.S. military-to-military relationship, Fan said.
He noted that the two sides have made many important gains in recent years in building a new model of major-country relations, thanks to personal efforts by the two heads of state.
The military-to-military relationship in general has maintained a momentum of steady development as demonstrated by the signing of the two mutual trust mechanisms, new advances in the areas of exchanging high-level visits, holding institutionalized consultations and dialogues, and conducting joint military drills and trainings, the general said.
Fan proposed the two militaries establish a new kind of military relationship featuring "mutual trust, cooperation, non-conflict and sustainability."
He expressed the hope that the two sides will work together to increase contacts, boost strategic mutual trust, strengthen practical cooperation, and effectively manage crises and risks.
On Taiwan-related issues, Fan urged the U.S. government to abide by the one-China policy and refrain from sending wrong messages to the forces seeking the island's independence from mainland China.
For his part, Carter agreed with the Chinese proposal of building a new type of military-to-military relationship.
Washington is looking forward to Xi's state visit to the United States in September, and believes that the two militaries can establish a practical and sustainable relationship, he said.
The two military chiefs also exchanged views on issues of mutual concern, including military-to-military relations and issues concerning Taiwan, Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
On Friday, Fan is expected to witness, with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno, the signing of the China-U.S. Army-to-Army Dialogue Mechanism at the National Defense University, which will open a new channel for leaders in the two armies "to raise and discuss issues of mutual concern such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response practices," according to the Pentagon.
The general is also scheduled to hold meetings with senior U.S. officials at the White House and State Department on Friday.
The high-level Chinese military delegation headed by Fan, which started its U.S. trip on Monday, has already visited such places as a Boeing factory in Seattle, the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, and the U.S. Army base at Fort Hood, Texas.