China's plans to join the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia could lead to a renewal of military exchanges between Beijing and Washington, a top US military official has said.
Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the Pacific Command, held out hopes for a revival in military relations after China said it was preparing to send warships to the Gulf of Aden in response to a pirate attack on a Chinese vessel. "I hope the Chinese do (send ships to the Gulf of Aden) and we'll work closely with them," Keating told reporters on Thursday.
"I think this could be a springboard for a resumption of dialogue between PLA forces and US Pacific Command forces," he said.
China suspended military contacts with the United States in October in protest over US arms sales to Taiwan valued at 6.5 billion dollars.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, nevertheless have warmed since President Ma Ying-jeou assumed office in Taiwan in May. Keating said his command has been in touch with other agencies and military commands to provide information to the Peoples Liberation Army should it decide to deploy warships in Gulf of Aden.
The United States wants "to make sure they are aware of the lines of communications that are available to them... should they desire to send ships to the area of piracy most prevalent which is of course the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia."
Since the start of the year, about 100 ships have been attacked by Somali pirates who are holding 240 sailors for ransom.