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US denies seeking to 'contain' China

Moves by Washington to strengthen military ties in the Pacific are not aimed at containing China, a senior US defence official said today, after holding talks with her Chinese counterpart.

world Updated: Dec 08, 2011 11:51 IST

Moves by Washington to strengthen military ties in the Pacific are not aimed at containing China, a senior US defence official said on Thursday, after holding talks with her Chinese counterpart.

US under secretary of defence for policy Michele Flournoy said she had sought to assure China's Ma Xiaotian over moves including the deployment of US Marines in Australia.

"We assured General Ma and his delegation that the US does not seek to contain China, we do not view China as an adversary, but these posture changes were first and foremost about strengthening our alliance with Australia," she told reporters in Beijing.

Wednesday's talks marked the first high-level meeting of US and Chinese defence officials since Washington angered Beijing in September by announcing an arms deal with Taiwan.

Flournoy also said she expected joint anti-piracy drills with China would go ahead next year, after Beijing postponed the planned exercises in anger at the Taiwan arms deal.

The joint drills -- billed as key to building trust between the Chinese and US militaries -- were announced when America's top military officer Admiral Mike Mullen visited Beijing in July and were due to take place this year.

They were put on hold after Washington announced a $5.85 billion deal to upgrade Taiwan's F-16 fighter jets, angering China, which considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.

"We will get together at the working level to chart out the plan for 2012. We hope that will include a number of high-level visits, as well as a number of joint exercises such as humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy," Flournoy said.

"We do envision those activities going forward in 2012."

Relations between the US and Chinese militaries have long been fraught but they have improved over the past year, with Mullen becoming the first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit China since 2007.

General Chen Bingde, the head of China's armed forces, visited the United States in May this year.

Flournoy said "there was support on both sides to moving forward with the military-to-military relationship and coming up with a meaningful engagement and exercise programme for the coming year."

US President Barack Obama, who has dubbed himself America's first Pacific president, last month said the United States would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia.