Admiral Robert Willard, head of the US Pacific Command, voiced satisfaction that military dialogue has continued despite frequent storms in US-China relations but said that talks generally focused on comparing strategic views.
“Advancing the military relationship in other ways — at the operational and tactical levels, getting our two militaries more acquainted with one another through operations or through counterpart visits — has not advanced,” Willard told a news conference in Washington.
“I’m gratified that at the strategic level the dialogue has persisted. I’m not satisfied that the military relationship is where it needs to be,” he said.
He said that the two countries had a “difference in philosophy” on what military-to-military relations entailed and acknowledged that there were problems with trust, including “what China views as impediments” in ties.
China has repeatedly cancelled planned military exchanges with the United States to protest US arms sales to Taiwan. China claims the self-governing island, while US domestic law requires providing Taiwan means of self-defense.
China lodged a formal protest in September when President Barack Obama’s administration approved a $5.85 billion upgrade of Taiwan’s aging fighter-jets. But US officials said that there was minimal impact on military ties, amid criticism by some Taiwan supporters that Obama did not authorize fresh planes.
US officials have repeatedly urged greater defense cooperation with China as a way to avoid unintended incidents as Beijing is rapidly expanding its military and US forces operate throughout Asia.
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