Locked in an open-ended war on terrorism, the United States is sending a high-ranking envoy to China to improve relations between the two countries, which were badly damaged by last year's row over a US spy plane, according to a top defense official from the US.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Rodman will travel to Beijing in the middle of June "to talk about the principles on which we can get a military-to-military relationship on a more solid framework which will be of mutual benefit," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in remarks released Sunday by the Pentagon.
According to US defense officials, the exact date of Rodman's departure will be kept confidential for some time under new security guidelines introduced in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
But Wolfowitz made clear Washington was anxious to improve regional security cooperation with Beijing now that the events of September 11 have dramatically reshaped US strategic priorities.
He said: "We believe that China has a major, important, constructive role to play."
Contacts between the Chinese and US militaries have been severely curtailed in the aftermath of an April 1, 2001, incident in which a US EP-3 electronic surveillance plane bumped into a Chinese interceptor jet over the South China Sea.
Wolfowitz admitted the EP-3 incident was a setback for relations between the two countries' militaries but underscored the need for the United States and China to move forward and to enhance the mutually beneficial ties on the principles of transparency and reciprocity.
"We believe that the contact between American military personnel and Chinese military personnel can reduce misunderstanding on both sides and can help build a better basis for co-operation when opportunities arise," he said.
US officials would not disclose the specific items on Rodman's agenda. But they pointed out that Washington and Beijing have shared intelligence information in the wake of the terrorist attacks and have a military exchange program.
The visit will come as the Bush administration, anxious to avoid new terror strikes, is trying to recruit new allies for its counterterrorism campaign, including in East Asia.
Wolfowitz, busy courting regional support at an Asian security conference in Singapore over the weekend, said the United States has "a lot of common interests with China and we want to work on those common interests."
(People's Daily June 3, 2002)