US, Chinese admirals give thumbs-up to ties

WASHINGTON • The top officers in the American and Chinese navies have lauded progress in the United States-China naval ties, and said they were encouraged by the increased use of protocols for unplanned ship encounters at sea, a US Navy official said.

The US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, and China's naval commander, Admiral Wu Shengli, spoke for two hours on Tuesday via video conference, highlighting port visits, personnel exchanges and other measures undertaken last year, said the official. They agreed to continue that work this year.

The talks came amid growing tensions over Beijing's continued development of man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, and its decision to land commercial airplanes on one of the islands.

China rebuked Washington in October last year after a US warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of the islands. US officials have said they plan additional patrols in the coming months.

"Face-to-face interaction and frank exchanges help build a personal connection that benefits both our navies now and into the future," Adm Richardson said in a statement released by the US Navy.

It was the third such dialogue between the two men since shortly before Adm Richardson took over as the top US naval officer. Such discussions help establish a dialogue that reduces the risk of miscalculation between their two forces, the navy said in the statement.

Adm Richardson and Adm Wu agreed to hold another video teleconference this spring, unless "emergent issues" arose before then, said the navy official.

They also discussed a possible first in-person meeting in China in late spring or early summer, said the official.

Both officers were "satisfied and encouraged" with the increased use of protocols established under the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a 2014 agreement between 21 Pacific nations that sets out standards and procedures for when ships meet at sea.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'US, Chinese admirals give thumbs-up to ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe