The Chinese army is committed to consolidating military exchanges and cooperation with neighboring countries, and these kinds of relations maintain good momentum, said Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan Sunday.
Cao, also Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission and a state councilor, made the remarks in an interview with Xinhua before starting his official goodwill visit to Pakistan, India and Thailand later this month at the invitation of the three countries' defense ministers.
He said the visit is in line with China's diplomatic efforts to build a good relationship and partnership with neighboring countries. Such visits consolidate and develop mutual understanding and trust, as well as deepening friendship and cooperation between China and the three countries.
"China is willing to create a harmonious, stable and peaceful regional political and security environment with all Asian countries, including Pakistan, India and Thailand," Cao said.
He said he will meet with government and military leaders of the three countries, and exchange views with them on issues of common concern.
China and Pakistan signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation last November. Cao said the Sino-Pakistani friendship has grown continuously since the establishment of diplomatic relations despite the fast-changing international situation.
The Chinese government appreciates Pakistan's unswerving support in international affairs, he said, adding that China is ready to further deepen bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in various fields so as to inject new vitality into the two countries' relations.
"Meanwhile, the two armed forces had frequent fruitful exchanges and cooperation at various levels and in various fields," he said, expressing the hope that the bilateral military relations will continue to progress.
Cao said that although the relationship between India and China had experienced twists and turns, on the whole it is moving forward. The declaration of principles for relations and comprehensive cooperation between China and India signed last year marked a new phase in China-India relations.
"We appreciate the positive remarks made recently by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes on the current status and development of Sino-Indian relations," he said.
Bilateral exchange and cooperation in various areas are in the interests of the two countries as well as the two peoples, Cao noted, adding that China considers the constructive cooperative partnership with India very important, and is willing to promote bilateral relations to a new high.
Cao said the Chinese and Indian armies had seen increasing exchanges in recent years. An Indian naval fleet visited Shanghai last November and the two sides held a joint search-and-rescue drill, which proved the determination of two countries to enhance neighborly cooperation.
"I believe the exchanges between the two armies will continue moving ahead with the efforts of the two countries' leaders," Cao said.
Cao said India and Pakistan had set topics and an agenda for a comprehensive dialogue, and reached agreement on solving disputes peacefully. This would help ease bilateral tensions.
"China welcomes and supports this," said Cao, adding that China, as a neighboring country, hopes the two sides solve their differences through dialogue and advance their relations to contribute to regional peace and development.
Cao said China and Thailand have enjoyed a long-standing traditional friendship, which has kept good momentum for many years. He noted that the two sides are enjoying comprehensive, deep and high-level relations at present.
In a state visit to Thailand last October, President Hu Jintao exchanged views with Thai leaders on furthering bilateral relations, setting forth a concrete plan to deepen strategic cooperation, nailing down the orientation of the two countries' relations and boosting all-around development, said Cao.
The two armies have also conducted frequent high-level exchanges in past years and had broad exchanges and cooperation in army building and supporting the national economy.
China will expand cooperation with Thailand and promote the two armies' relations to a higher level, he said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2004)