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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 11, 2006

China-U.S. military ties must improve

It would be hard to overstate the importance of a visit this week by U.S. Pacific commander William Fallon to China.

Fallon's mission is to restore quality contacts and communications between American military officials and their Chinese counterparts.

Such communications were stalled after Tiananmen Square and, more recently, after the Chinese seizure of a U.S. spy plane and its crew in 2001.

While the ensuing frostiness was understandable, it is dangerous and unnecessary.

Going forward, it is imperative that the two sides have the kind of face-to-face relationship that can avoid confrontations that might stem from misunderstandings and lack of communication.

That idea was expressly recognized by one of Fallon's contacts in China, Gen. Ge Zhengfeng, the Chinese military's deputy chief of staff. According to Bloomberg News, Ge said it was important for Chinese and U.S. officials to deepen their relationship so they don't view each other through the "lens of ignorance and suspicion."

Fallon recognizes this, and has said so on many occasions. Unfortunately, his efforts (as well as similar efforts by his predecessors) often have been hamstrung by politics.

For instance, one obstacle to closer cooperation is the National Defense Authorization Act, which restricts contacts and military exchanges between the two nations. Those restrictions should be lifted, but this is a two-way street: China must also demonstrate an increased willingness to talk and cooperate with American military interests.