In the first such visit in more than four years, the top U.S. military oficer met with his Chinese counterparts in Beijing Sunday. From the New York Times:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chen Bingde, the chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, and senior Chinese government officials. Admiral Mullen’s visit follows a similar trip by General Chen to the United States in May.
Ties between the two militaries have been improving since January’s summit meeting in Washington between President Hu Jintao and President Obama. The Chinese had suspended relations with the Pentagon for much of 2010 to protest American arms sales to Taiwan and a January 2010 visit to the White House by the Dalai Lama.
But Admiral Mullen’s visit comes as tensions between the two militaries are threatening to rise once more, this time over China’s claim to virtually all the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the sea, which is believed to hold valuable oil and mineral deposits beneath the seabed.
Vietnam conducted live-fire naval drills last month after Chinese vessels severed an exploration cable of a Vietnamese ship that was searching for oil deposits in a disputed area. Admiral Mullen arrived in Beijing almost two weeks after the United States Navy held joint drills with the Philippines, and as the United States conducted what it called a low-level exercise with Japanese and Australian warships off the Brunei coast.
The Straits Times also reports that Adm. Mullen specifically asked for China’s help in dealing with North Korea.