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US-PRC Militaries Talking Again

China has resumed "official military to relations" with the United States and also rejoined maritime discussions, Adm. Timothy Keating, head of Pacific Command told defense reporters Tuesday.

One of the top US experts on China's space issues and a professor at the Naval War College, Joan Johnson-Freese, praised the resumption of talks, saying they were "a very positive and important step forward. Beyond the geostrategic aspects of improved U.S.-China relations, there is a very real need for the military on both sides to simply better understand how the other operates, what their constraints and SOPs are, and who their counterparts are. Given the maritime nature of both countries, it is not surprising that maritime discussion opened this door."

Keating said the agreement to resume talks was reached during the late June visit to China of the Pentagon's top policy official, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy. Several weeks later, China resumed maritime discussions during a visit about a month later by an American military delegation. And there were several days of meetings between one and two-star generals from China, the US and about a dozen other countries about three weeks ago to discuss logistics and other issues, Keating said.

"We are not just talking about getting underway. We are underway," Keating said. After the breakfast with the Defense Writers Group, Keating told me that there were ongoing discussions to line up a meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Chinese counterpart but that no decisions had been made.

Keating, clearly wiser from two years running US forces in the region, also said he was in Washington in part to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review does not lead to a reduction in forces in his command. He has a meeting Wednesday to discuss the QDR and Pacific Command. While he made clear he would only be offering his professional military advice, Keating told reporters that numbers do matter in a command spread over such an enormous area, both in terms of troops and weapons platforms. He also noted that Pacific Command provides tens of thousands of troops to support activities in Central Command's area of operations.

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