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US Army chief of staff, Chinese top generals meet to build trust

BEIJING -- China and the United States moved Friday to establish regular dialogue between their armies as part of efforts to build trust and understanding amid rising regional tensions.

Relations between the two militaries, which have progressed by fits and starts, are now “headed in the right direction,” visiting U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said.

“I have a very positive opinion on our future relationship as we develop the army dialogue,” Odierno told the People's Liberation Army's Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fang Fenghui at a meeting at the Defense Ministry in western Beijing.

“I believe these discussions are important to continue our dialogue. We have many common objectives,” Odierno said.

Fang and other Chinese generals with whom Odierno met said a consensus had been reached on holding regular meetings and boosting cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese land forces on topics such as peacekeeping and educational exchanges.

Fang said China agreed with Odierno's suggestion that relations between the two armies should advance on the principles of engagement, sharing and balance.

“I think that is quite a constructive idea,” Fang said.

If successful, the army-to-army engagement could prove a boon to American officers who have long attempted to draw the People's Liberation Army out of its traditional culture of secrecy and mistrust of the U.S. military.

Though no details were given, the sides had also said they planned to discuss regional security matters, a nod to bitter disputes between China and two U.S. allies — Japan and the Philippines — over territorial claims in the East and South China seas that have raised alarms over the possibility of armed conflict.

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, front right, and Gen. Wang Ning, deputy Chief Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), front left, review an honor guard at China's Ministry of Defense in Beijing, Friday, Feb. 21. The U.S. Army chief met with top Chinese generals in Beijing Friday amid regional tensions and efforts to build trust between the two nation's militaries. (AP)

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