Chinese brass arriving on third détente tour
Twenty-eight Chinese military leaders will make their third visit to the islands this week as part of a continuing campaign by the Pentagon to help allay mutual suspicions.
Lt. Cmdr. Jason Salata, Pacific Command spokesman, said that all branches of the People's Liberation Army will be represented when the delegation arrives here Thursday after spending three days on the West Coast.
The Chinese visit began in San Diego yesterday with the mid-level commanders touring the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble in San Diego, followed by briefings from the Marines at Camp Pendleton.
Salata said the Chinese delegation's visit to Hawaii would include Army briefings at Fort Shafter and one at Hickam Air Force Base.
"The briefings will conclude with one tying everything together at Camp Smith on Friday," Salata said.
Army Lt. Col. Roger Cavazos, senior China country director at the U.S. Pacific Command who is traveling with the delegation, told the Associated Press: "It's a great opportunity for us to talk directly with PLA officers, with senior, mid-grade PLA commanders. You just can't beat it."
"It's that direct interaction, that direct contact that really helps us allay mutual suspicions and move forward with this process of engaging and dealing more with the PLA," Cavazos told the AP.
Salata said this is the third visit by Chinese military leaders since November 2005, when they made a trip to Alaska and Hawaii, followed by another to the islands earlier this year.
In March, Rear Adm. Mike Tracy, a former battle group commander, took a U.S. delegation to China and plans another for next year.
"We see this as an excellent opportunity to shape U.S.-China military relations, as well as the perception of future PLA leaders," Salata said.
"This visit is an important part of Pacific Command's approach to measured and moderate defense relations with China, and we maintain that reciprocity and transparency in our relationship will allay mutual suspicions."
But Salata acknowledged that the Chinese would not get to see everything they asked to see, which included a visit to an aircraft carrier and the Army's new Stryker combat vehicle.
Military exchange programs with China abruptly ended in April 2001 after a Chinese jet collided with a U.S. spy plane over the China Sea.
Before leaving on Saturday, the Chinese delegation will visit the battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrender ended World War II in September 1945. They will take a barge tour of Pearl Harbor before visiting the USS Arizona Memorial.