In a meeting Thursday with a Chinese General, United States Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated U.S.’ call on China in ceasing its land reclamation project on the South China Sea, but asserting that the U.S Pentagon will not abandon expanded military exercises with the sleeping dragon.
“Secretary Carter reiterated U.S. concerns on the South China Sea, and called on China and all claimants to implement a lasting halt on land reclamation, cease further militarization, and pursue a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in accordance with international law,” the news release said.
China’s Central Military Commission deputy-head, General Fan Changlong is in the United States since June 8 for a six-day visit in the midst of tension brewing over the South China Sea region and the recent announcement of a federal employee data hack.
Pentagon officials said Secretary Carter assured General Changlong that the U.S. remains committed to “developing a sustained and substantive U.S.-China military-military relationship based on a desire to deepen practical, concrete cooperation in areas of mutual interest.”
During the meeting, the Pentagon said the two officials tackled mutual concerns, including regional security, military relations and maritime issues, including building an artificial island in South China Sea.
‘South China Sea Islands Have Been China’s Territories’
General Changlong, however, refuted Carter’s call and urged the U.S. military to lessen on its air and naval activities in the South China Sea, claiming “China has the right to establish military facilities on its own territories.”
State-run media said the Chinese general emphasized that “South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters have been China’s territories since ancient times.”
Xinhuanet news further said: “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.”
Rules of Behavior
The Pentagon also said Carter was pleased to know that the Chinese general will witness, along with General Raymond Odierno, army’s chief of staff the signing of the U.S.-Chia Army-to-Army Dialogue Mechanism framework document on Friday, June 12.
“The framework is significant in paving the way for a new channel for leaders in our two armies to raise and discuss issues of mutual concern such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response practices,” Pentagon said.
Further, Carter echoed his commitment in reaching consensus by September “on the air-to-air annex to the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters Memorandum of Understanding,” according to Pentagon statement.
Wu Xi from Chinese Embassy in Washington earlier said that Changlong’s visit to the U.S. is a prelude to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. in September. Earlier, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warns against China declaring an ‘Air Defense Zone’ over the disputed sea.