Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Monday met with veterans of the "Flying Tigers" and their families, stressing that China will never forget those who have offered their help.
Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (R) meets with "Flying Tigers" veteran J. V. "Jay" Vinyard (L) and Nell Calloway (C), granddaughter of "Flying Tigers" commander General Claire Lee Chennault on May 7, 2012, stressing that China will never forget those who have offered their help. [Photo/Chinanews.com]
During the meeting with "Flying Tigers" veteran J. V. "Jay" Vinyard and Nell Calloway, granddaughter of "Flying Tigers" commander General Claire Lee Chennault, Liang said the Chinese and American people share a long history of friendly ties, citing the battles fought by the "Flying Tigers" alongside the Chinese people against Japanese aggressors as an example.
The American Volunteer Group, nicknamed the "Flying Tigers" by Chinese for their courage, was formed in 1941 under the leadership of U.S. General Claire Lee Chennaults to help China drive out invading Japanese troops. An estimated 2,264 U.S. "Flying Tigers" members and more than 900 Chinese airmen who fought along with them died in the war.
Recalling the efforts made by the "Flying Tigers" during the war, Liang said the Chinese people will never forget those who have offered help. He said the "Flying Tigers" and the Hump, an air transport route flown by the U.S. aviators, are household names in China and there're memorials in Kunming and Chongqing.
Liang's visit aims to implement the consensus Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama reached on building a cooperative partnership of mutual respect and benefit, and push forward the development of bilateral and military ties in a healthy and stable way.
Liang said that a positive relationship between the two countries requires efforts made by the two peoples, voicing hope that the Chinese and American people will work hand in hand to enhance such a relationship. Calloway said she appreciates how much the Chinese people value the history of the "Flying Tigers," and she believes that history bears a special importance to the current world. Vinyard expressed belief that the relationship between the two countries will prosper.
Liang is the first defense minister visiting the US in nine years. He will meet his counterpart, Leon Panetta and hold a joint press conference before wrapping up his visit on May 10, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced earlier.
Liang will also tour the U.S. Southern Command, Fort Benning of the U.S. Army, Naval Base San Diego, the 4th Fighter Wing of U.S. Air Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force of U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
(Xinhua contributed to the story)