Defense

December 3, 2012

U.S., China militaries hold exercise to build trust

The U.S. and Chinese militaries wrapped up a modest disaster-relief exercise Nov. 30, hailed as a tentative trust-building step amid growing suspicions between the Asia-Pacific region’s largest armed forces.

While not a full-fledged operation, the two-day exercise at People’s Liberation Army barracks outside the city of Chengdu consisted of U.S. and Chinese officers sitting around a table facing a flat-panel video screen and discussing how they would respond to an earthquake in a fictional third country.

Though this was the eighth meeting to discuss disaster relief, it was the first time both sides discussed a joint response to a simulated disaster. The leading officers called that a step forward in building familiarity and trust.

U.S. Maj. Gen. Stephen Lyons said the exercise began the groundwork for the day when the two militaries will operate side-by-side in an actual humanitarian operation.

“I think it’s very conceivable. If there is a country out there, and there inevitably there will be, that will have a natural disaster, and they call for international help, if U.S. forces and Chinese forces respond, then indeed we’ll find ourselves working together in the field,” Lyons said in comments to reporters.

While Washington and Beijing have talked about boosting military cooperation for more than a decade, distrust runs high and disagreements over Taiwan, North Korea and China’s assertive claims to disputed territories in the East and South China seas remain potential flashpoints. China’s robust military buildup and Washington’s decision to redeploy more weaponry and troops to the Asia-Pacific region have added to the tensions.

The modest scope of the table-top simulation underscores the underlying hesitation and distrust on both sides, particularly in Beijing, which tends to view military exchanges as a form of diplomatic leverage to be severed at times of tension.

“It’s worth pursuing, but expectations should be modest,” said Denny Roy, an expert on the Chinese military at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center.

This year’s exchange comes as China has been flexing its military muscle and raising regional tensions. Last week China staged the first successful landing of planes on its newly commissioned aircraft carrier, a sign of its rapid progress toward deploying the ultimate symbol of naval power and a potent tool for projecting military force far from its shores.

China’s Defense Ministry reiterated Thursday that the aircraft carrier was in line with the country’s defense needs and was “not aimed at threatening others and not targeted against any country.”

Hardware aside, China has been ratcheting up tensions by engaging in more aggressive tactics in recent months and thereby unnerving neighbors and the U.S.

Chinese coastal patrol and fisheries ships have pushed the Philippines away from a disputed South China Sea shoal and harassed Japanese coast guard vessels near contested East China Sea islands. U.S. naval and aerial reconnaissance close to China’s shores has at times been challenged by Chinese ships and planes, risking clashes.

This week, southern Hainan province, which administers or claims to administer the South China Sea islands China holds or wants to, approved laws giving the police force the right to search vessels that intrude in Chinese waters. The move raised concerns about whether China would seek to block normal maritime traffic through the South China Sea, waters vital to world trade.

Aware of the potential for conflict between the militaries, both sides have in recent years tried to find ways to cooperate. Their armed forces have conducted joint anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden. U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in Beijing this week renewed an invitation for China to take part in large U.S.-led multinational naval exercises next year, though China has not said if it would participate.

Exercises on humanitarian and disaster relief operations are relatively safe ways to build trust because they “avoid politically sensitive areas,” said retired Rear Admiral Mike McDevitt, a senior fellow with the Center for Naval Analysis.

Asia is home to more natural disasters every year than any other part of the world, and the U.S. and Chinese militaries have proved vital in responding to tragedies such as the 2008 Wenquan earthquake that struck in the mountains outside Chengdu, and last year’s massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, said Allen L. Clark, senior program development specialist at the Pacific Disaster Center in Honolulu Hawaii.

“The U.S. military has been vital in responding to disasters so it makes perfect sense for it to continue coordinating and training with other nations’ militaries,” Clark told The Associated Press at a forum organized by the East-West Center.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines April 21, 2014

News: Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him - Almost 10 years after the friendly fire death of former NFL star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, a fellow ranger admits that he may have been the one who fired the fatal shot.   Business: Ship study should favor existing designs -...
 
 

News Briefs April 21, 2014

Navy OKs changes for submariners’ sleep schedules The U.S. Navy has endorsed changes to submarine sailors’ schedules based on research into sleep patterns by a military laboratory in Connecticut. With no sunlight to set day apart from night on a submarine, the Navy for decades has staggered sailors’ working hours on schedules with little resemblance...
 
 

NASA cargo launches to space station aboard SpaceX resupply mission

Nearly 2.5 tons of NASA science investigations and cargo are on the way to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:25 p.m., EDT, April 18. The mission is the company’s third...
 

 

Second series of CASIS-sponsored research payloads launch to ISS

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is proud to announce several sponsored research payloads have launched to the International Space Station onboard the Space Exploration Technology Corporation’s Dragon cargo capsule. This marks the second series of investigations headed to the station that are sponsored by CASIS, the nonprofit responsible for managing research...
 
 

Boeing to give California workers $47 million in back pay

PALMDALE, Calif. – Boeing will pay $47 million to hundreds of current and former Southern California employees who are owed back pay and benefits, a union announced April 18. An arbitrator ruled against the aerospace giant in January and laid down guidelines for the payments and interest, but it took months to cull through records...
 
 

NASA selects commercial crew program manager

NASA has selected Kathy Lueders as program manager for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Lueders, who has served as acting program manager since October 2013, will help keep the nation’s space program on course to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017 aboard spacecraft built by American companies. “This is a particularly critical time for...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>