The United States and China have agreed to expand military exchanges and exercises as part of efforts to build more stable bilateral ties amid tensions over cyber security.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan met in Washington on Monday and pledged to strengthen bilateral military cooperation.
Hagel said Washington is committed to a "positive and constructive relationship with China."
Hagel said he and Chang wanted to build "a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship" to bolster ties between the world's two biggest economies. "Our goal is to build trust between our militaries through cooperation," Hagel told reporters.
Chang stressed a similar theme of cooperation with the US in the Asia-Pacific.
As part of its goal to build trust between the militaries through cooperation, Hagel said the US for the first time has invited the Chinese Navy to join its largest multilateral naval exercise, RIMPAC. The exercises will take place next year.
"The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that help solve regional and global problems," Hagel told reporters in a joint news conference with the Chinese Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan.
"This morning, General Chang and I have affirmed that we will continue expanding our defence exchanges and joint exercises. Earlier this summer, for the first time, Chinese midshipmen joined in a multinational exchange program at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis," Hagel said.
Following the meeting Hagel said the two leaders welcomed this recent establishment of the new US-China cyber working group as a venue for addressing issues of mutual concern in the area of cyber.
"We discussed a number of regional security issues, as well, including North Korea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and I reaffirmed longstanding US policies on these issues," he said.
"With respect to competing maritime claims, I noted that while the United States does not take a position on sovereignty in these cases, we do have an interest in these claims being resolved peacefully, without coercion," he said.
General Chang said the two countries agreed that the military-to-military relationship is an important component of their overall bilateral relations and that the current military relationship is gaining a good momentum.
"We both agreed to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the two presidents during their Sunnylands summit to work together to strengthen our military relationship and attempt to elevate it to a new height," Chang said.
"We both agreed to continue to strengthen our high-level visits, deepen our consultations and dialogues in order to increase our mutual trust. Specifically, the US welcomes the visit by the PLA chief of general staff in 2014. China welcomes the visit by US secretary of defense and chief of naval operations in 2014," he said.
"Hagel and I agreed to set up an exchange mechanism between the PLA Strategic Planning Department and J5 Strategic, Plans and Policy, US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We also agreed to take use of mechanisms, such as defence consultative talks, military maritime consultative agreements, to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and continue to study the rules of behaviour on military air and maritime activities," he added.
Chang said he and Hagel believe that the Chinese and the US militaries are carrying an increasingly important responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.
Both sides agreed to play a constructive role in regional affairs, promoting the positive interaction between the two militaries in this region.
"We also agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under Asia Pacific multilateral security dialogues, mechanisms, and frameworks. China will participate in the Ring of Pacific exercise in 2014, as invited," he said.
Noting that China-US relationship is in a new historical era, he said building a new model of China-US military relationship can help them to increase strategic trust to reduce strategic risks and to maintain world peace and regional stability.
"China is ready to work with the US to seriously implemented our presidents' important consensus, to raise our military-to-military relationship to a new height by strengthening our dialogue, communication, and practical cooperation, and by properly handle our disputes and differences," Chang said.
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honour cordon to welcome his China's Minister of National Defence General Chang Wanquan at the Pentagon
Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters