Chinese Military Brass Visits US Amid Tensions

Diplomacy is sure to be emphasized during a top Chinese military official’s six-day visit to the United States, but tensions remain high in the South China Sea, where Beijing continues to assert itself in territorial disputes.

General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, started his tour Monday in San Diego by visiting the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

On Thursday, the general will hold talks at the Pentagon with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, officials told Agence France-Presse.

Carter is among the top US officials who have criticized China for its push to build artificial islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where several countries have overlapping territorial claims.
Carter was at a security conference in Singapore recently when he called for an immediate end to land reclamation by countries in the region. The Pentagon chief also accused China of being out of step with international rules.

“Turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit,” Carter said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies conference.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama also warned Beijing over its tactics, saying territorial disputes could not be solved by “throwing elbows.”

The general’s visit is part of a years-long effort to build a regular dialogue between the American and Chinese armed forces to defuse potential tensions and avoid miscalculations, AFP reported.

Carter’s predecessor, Chuck Hagel, visited China last year in a trip that was marked by friction, with each side trading sharply-worded criticism.