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 in Beijing 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 neighborly relationship and partnership with neighboring countries, and aims to consolidate and develop mutual understanding and trust, as well as deepen friendship and cooperation between China and the three countries.
"China is willing to actively 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, and when asked to comment on the relations between China and Pakistan and their armed forces, Cao said the Sino-Pakistani friendship has maintained continuous growth 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 the bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in various fields, so as to inject new vitality into bilateral friendly relations.
"Meanwhile, the two armed forces had frequent fruitful exchanges and cooperation at various levels in various fields," he said, expressing the hope that the bilateral military relations will continue to make new progress in the future.
Concerning the status quo of China-India relations, he said although the bilateral relationship had witnessed twists and turns, it moves ahead as a whole. The declaration on principles for relations and comprehensive cooperation between China and India signed last year marked a new development phase of China-India relations.
"We appreciate the positive remarks made recently by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes on the current status and development momentum of Sino-Indian relations," he said.
The bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various areas are in the interests of the two countries as well as the two peoples, he said, adding that China attaches great importance to the constructive cooperative partnership with India, and is willing to promote the 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 friendly cooperation.
"I believe the exchanges between the two armies would further move ahead with the efforts of the two countries' leaders," Cao said.
As for India-Pakistan relations, Cao said the two countries had set topics and an agenda for a comprehensive dialogue and reached agreement on solving disputes peacefully, which would help ease bilateral tensions.
"China welcomes and supports it," said Cao, adding that China, as a neighboring country, hopes the two sides solve their differences through dialogue and push forward their relations to contribute to the regional peace and development.
When asked to comment on China-Thailand relations, Cao said the two countries enjoyed long-standing traditional friendship, which had kept good momentum for many years, noting that the two sides are enjoying comprehensive, deep and high-level relations at present.
In a state visit to Thailand last October, Chinese President Hu Jintao exchanged views with the Thai leaders on furthering bilateral relations, setting forth a concrete plan to deepen bilateral strategic cooperation, nailing down the orientation of bilateral relations and boosting all-round bilateral development, said Cao.
The two armies also conducted frequent high-level exchanges in past years and had broad exchanges and cooperation in army building and supporting the national economy, said Cao.
China would expand cooperation with Thailand and promote the two armies' relations to a higher level, he said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2004)