US, China sign strategic military dialogue pact

BEIJING • The United States and Chinese militaries have signed an agreement to open a new communication mechanism for their joint staff departments, a move officials say will reduce the risk of miscalculation.

The joint strategic dialogue mechanism was inked on Tuesday at the Bayi Building, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) headquarters, during a visit to China by a top US military official.

Marine Corps General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is visiting China to further military-to-military ties between the two Pacific powers, according to the US Department of Defence.

This is Gen Dunford's first visit to China in his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the highest-ranking US military official to visit the country since President Donald Trump took office.

The two sides' militaries already have dialogue mechanisms across many military ranks and services, including the Defence Policy Coordination Talks for senior military officials, and dialogue and cooperation mechanism for the armies and navies, said Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science.

"But most of those mechanisms typically focus on policies, military building or exchanges on a specific issue or a branch of military," Col Zhao told China Daily.

"It is very important for joint staff departments, which encompass all military branches and serve as one of the backbones of military operations, to have regular exchanges. This is a very positive step in building mutual trust and cooperation."

Since the joint staff department plays a crucial role in actual combat operations, experts said the new mechanism would strengthen effective communication, reduce miscalculations and improve risk management in Asia's increasingly complex geopolitical climate.

These communications are especially crucial now, as the region and the world are facing the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea, officials said.

The agreement is intended for crisis mitigation, US Joint Staff officials said, noting that direct communication at the three-star level in the Pentagon and the Bayi will "enable us to communicate to reduce the risk of miscalculation".

Army Lieutenant-General Richard Clarke, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy, will lead the effort for the American military.

The first meeting to set up the framework has been set for November.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'US, China sign strategic military dialogue pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe