Apart from deepening military exchanges, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie is likely to warn the US over arms sales to Taiwan and the South China Sea issue during his visit there, analysts said yesterday.
"The two sides will make clear each other's strategy and intentions, so that the risk of strategic misunderstanding can be reduced," Gu Guoliang, a researcher with the America Study Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"For years, military exchanges have lagged behind exchanges in other fields between the two sides. There are three obstacles that need to be overcome: the arms sales to Taiwan, the US surveillance on China and US policies that strictly limit technology exchanges between the two countries," Gu said.
The six-day visit, which ends Thursday, comes shortly after the White House said it was giving "serious consideration" to modernizing Taiwan's air force with the sale of additional F-16 aircraft.
"Ever since President Hu Jintao's visit to the US in January 2011, the Sino-US military exchange has been recovering and witnessed some big achievements, but another large scale US arms sale to Taiwan could kill the momentum easily," Shi Yinhong, director of the Center of US Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
"Liang will warn the US that such a move would dramatically damage Sino-US ties, and China's reaction would be severe," Shi said.
Sino-US military exchanges were suspended in January 2010 after Washington announced the decision to sell a total of nearly $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, including Black Hawk helicopters, a Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system and mine hunting ships.
Another hot topic during Liang's visit could be the South China Sea issue, as the standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels in waters near Huangyan Island continues, analysts noted.
The US is helping the Philippines draft a long-term military plan that calls for the Pentagon to supply coastal patrol vessels and maritime radars as well as assist the country obtain equipment from US allies in the region, Bloomberg quoted a US official as saying.
During talks with Philippine officials in Washington last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed Washington's commitment to its mutual defense treaty with Manila.
"Liang will further make clear China's stance on the issue and demand the US play a more constructive role in the standoff between China and the Philippines, instead of escalating the situation by misleading other countries," Shi said.
Liang is expected to hold a press conference today after having talks with his US counterpart, Leon Panetta. This is the first visit to the US by a Chinese defense minister in nine years.
During a speech upon his arrival, Liang said this year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's visit to China, and the issuance of the Shanghai Communiqué, and that China-US relations have seen progress after experiencing many ups and downs over the years.
He stressed that China and the US are partners rather than competitors, adding that his visit aims to further implement the consensus reached between Hu and US President Barack Obama on building a partnership based on mutual respect and benefit and push forward the development of military ties.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Wednesday, "The reason for the visit ... is to attempt to further strengthen our military cooperation and contacts with the Chinese. We believe that this is an important point on the trajectory of increased cooperation with our Chinese counterparts."
During the visit, Liang will tour a number of major US military bases, including Southern Command, Fort Benning, and the US Military Academy at West Point.
According to Shi, former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited many important facilities of the PLA during his visit to China in January last year, such as the Second Artillery Force, China's strategic missile troop. In turn, Liang will also visit some key military sites of the US.
"It is an exchange based on mutual opening up and equality," he said.
After the US visit, Liang will travel to Latvia and Poland at the invitation of the countries' defense authorities.