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Panetta seeks closer Sino-US ties as China military expands

US defense secretary Leon Panetta will look for ways to deepen US military relations with China during a visit to Asia this week, even as he works to bolster US alliances in the region as part of a strategic shift that Beijing views with concern.

world Updated: Sep 16, 2012 23:16 IST
Reuters

US defense secretary Leon Panetta will look for ways to deepen US military relations with China during a visit to Asia this week, even as he works to bolster US alliances in the region as part of a strategic shift that Beijing views with concern.

Panetta, who arrived in Tokyo on Sunday on his third trip to Asia since becoming defense secretary, will discuss the realignment of US military basing in Japan and expanding ballistic missile defense cooperation before heading to Beijing to try to deepen and broaden military-to-military ties.

He wraps up his visit with defense cooperation talks in New Zealand. Senior US and Chinese defense officials have made an effort to push their military relationship forward since it resumed a year and a half ago after a bitter break over US arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province.

But despite visits by top officials, ties between the Pentagon and the People's Liberation Army are marked by mistrust.

"This is a relationship that has in the past been characterised by a lot of ups and downs and an on-again, off-again cycle that reflected the lack of a solid foundation ... sufficient to weather the type of turbulence that's natural in a relationship that's as broad and complex as the one that we have with China," a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity.

"We're not there yet in terms of where we'd like to be in our military-to-military relationship, but visits like the one that Secretary Panetta is going to have ... sustain the forward progress that we've been able to make over the past several months."

First Published: Sep 16, 2012 23:15 IST