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‘US military focus on Pacific not aimed at containing China’

‘US military focus on Pacific not aimed at containing China’
The US today assured China that its military focus on Asia-Pacific is not aimed at containing Beijing as Defence Secretary Leon Penetta met a ‘healthy’ Xi Jinping here, the first foreign leader to do so after China’s leader-in-waiting mysteriously vanished from public view.

Panetta, who is on a four-day China visit, is the first foreign dignitary to hold talks in recent weeks with Xi, whose absence from the political scene for about a fortnight this month sparked off rumours about his serious illness ahead of the leadership change in the ruling CPC.

Rumours about 59-year-old Xi’s health started circulating after cancellation of his scheduled meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month.

‘Frankly my impression was that he was very healthy and very engaged,’ Panetta told reporters after his meeting with Xi, who is set to succeed President Hu Jintao at the Congress of the ruling Communist Party which is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

Panetta’s meeting with Xi, which was scheduled for 45 minutes, went beyond the allotted time, a day after the US Defence Secretary held talks with Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie.

Later, Panetta in his interaction with young Chinese military officers and cadets of the Engineering Academy of People's Liberation Army's (PLA’s) Armoured Forces faced tough questions on China's disputes with Japan and other neighbours over maritime territorial boundaries.

‘Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China. It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific,’ he said, defending America’s ‘Asia Pivot’ policy, which China said was aimed at containing its rise.

‘It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers,’ Panetta said.

Panetta said that improving relations and building trust will take time and that, ‘despite the distance we have travelled over the past 40 years, it is clear that this journey is not yet complete, particularly for our two militaries.’

‘As the world's two largest economies, China and the US must forge stronger ties between their armies to avoid potential conflict or crises,’ he said. ‘Our goal is to make sure that no dispute or misunderstanding escalates into unwanted tensions or a conflict.’

He defended the US move to shift its focus to Asia-Pacific, saying that international law backed up by US naval power, had helped bring prosperity and peace to the region and China had profited from it.
Agencies

Agencies

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