US plays down China-Japan war talk

The United States Army chief has played down remarks that China might be training for a "short, sharp" war with Japan, saying he had seen "no indications of that at all".

General Raymond Odierno, the US Army Chief of Staff, who held talks with his Chinese military counterparts over the past two days, emphasised instead that his visit was aimed at increasing military interactions between the world's top two economies and to develop a framework for official dialogue that would be "broad and substantive in the long run".

"(Existing) dialogues have been at a low level. This is, for the first time, at the institutional level where we are going to put together a formal plan... which will be more long-term", he added yesterday, expressing hope for an official army-to-army dialogue by the end of the year.

The importance of dialogue and discussion between Tokyo and Beijing regarding their island dispute was also reinforced during the talks.

"We reinforced the importance of dialogue and discussion between the Japanese and the Chinese regarding this issue," Gen Odierno said yesterday. "We have to be careful and ensure that there are no miscalculations along the way."

Ties between China and US ally Japan have worsened in part due to mistrust over China's military buildup and their territorial dispute in the East China Sea. China also sparked concerns last November when it announced an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, which the US has refused to recognise.

Gen Odierno acknowledged that issues to do with the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, South China Sea and Taiwan remained as sticking points in the Sino-US relationship. But these are being worked through, he said.

The Pentagon last Thursday also said remarks by a senior US Navy intelligence officer did not reflect the Defence Department's view. The officer had told a forum earlier this month that he believed China was training its forces to be capable of carrying out a war with Japan in the East China Sea, a move that would likely trigger an American military response.

Gen Odierno said talks with his Chinese counterparts were "frank, honest and important" and that deeper military ties would help reduce the risk of miscalculation.

"As we have this long-term discussion and building of capability, I think it'll allow us to deal with some of these differences in a more transparent way," he said.

"Building a relationship where you can pick up the phone and call your counterpart, having the ability to build confidence in each other where you've dealt with each other on several occasions, really helps to mitigate potential miscalculation and problems."