WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of U.S. forces in the Pacific said on Thursday China had made no overtures to revive dialogue with the U.S. military since President Barack Obama took office but he was optimistic ties would improve.
China broke off high-level contacts with the U.S. military in October after the United States agreed a $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
“I have seen no change since the new administration came in,” Navy Admiral Timothy Keating, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, told Reuters in an interview at the Pentagon.
“We do have ongoing dialogue with ... certain folks in China,” Keating said. “We would much prefer it to be a more formal, a more regular and a more frequent dialogue than it is right now and that’s what we’re working to achieve.”
The United States has repeatedly called on China to explain the intentions behind the modernization of its armed forces and large increases in its military budget in recent years.
Beijing has stated it is committed to a “peaceful rise” alongside its rapid economic development and rejected U.S. accusations it has not been transparent.
Keating said the United States wanted to encourage “responsible behavior” by China.
He said he was heartened by Chinese participation in international anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia. Chinese vessels were in contact with U.S. Navy ships there, he said. “There is ongoing dialogue at the tactical level so we are encouraged by that,” Keating said.
“We think that there are ways for China to integrate into naval coalitions, to help with humanitarian disaster relief, so as to reflect a willingness to cooperate and collaborate,” he said. “I’m optimistic about it.”
U.S. and Chinese military officials exchanged visits throughout 2007 and 2008 until the Taiwan arms deal was announced, said Keating, who visited China twice as Pacific Command chief.
He said he hoped such contacts could resume as part of a return to more dialogue with the Chinese military.