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American Forces Press Service News Article

Historic Agreement Marks Secretary's China Visit

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
	BEIJING -- On the second day of his visit to China, Defense 
Secretary William Cohen signed agreements designed to prevent 
accidents and confrontations between the U.S. and Chinese navies.
	Cohen and Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian co-signed the 
agreement Jan. 19 as a score of high-level U.S. and Chinese 
military officials looked on. Cohen later said the pact 
strengthens U.S.-Chinese military ties and establishes a 
mechanism for regular communication between the two nations' 
	"This will improve our ability to deal with incidents at sea 
and increase our mutual understanding of naval and navigational 
practices for both ships and aircraft," he said. "As our naval 
and air forces have more contact, this agreement will increase 
understanding and reduce the chances of miscalculation.
	"Secondly, the agreement demonstrates the maturing 
relationship between our militaries. It is the first 
institutional agreement of its kind between the United States and 
the Chinese military."
	Under the agreement, DoD and the Chinese defense ministry 
will meet annually to discuss mutual concerns that relate to 
activities at sea by their naval and air forces.
	U.S. and Chinese defense leaders began formulating the 
agreement during Chi's visit to the United States in late 1996. 
"It gives me a great deal of pleasure to sign this agreement on 
my first visit to China as secretary of defense," Cohen said.
	Chi shared his hope that the agreement will be implemented 
smoothly "so that it will better serve the effort that the two 
sides are making for deeper mutual understanding, mutual trust, 
and friendly relations and cooperation."
	Cohen arrived here Jan. 17 for three days of meetings with 
Chinese civilian and military leaders, including President Jiang 
Zemin. At a welcoming banquet Jan. 18 in Beijing's Great Hall of 
the People, the secretary talked of the World War II Sino-U.S. 
alliance against Japan and called for a continued improvement of 
	"During these times of economic difficulty being experienced 
throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region, and given the tension 
that could exist, it is more important than ever that we remind 
ourselves that we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the past and 
that we should stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the future," Cohen 
	Cohen struck would could be another first Jan. 19, when he 
became probably the first American official to visit the Beijing 
Air Defense Center. Chinese officials set up the visit, possibly 
as a reciprocal gesture of openness. Chinese military delegations 
earlier visited the North American Defense Command headquarters 
in Colorado.
	At any rate, officials accompanying Cohen on the trip here 
said the visit to the Chinese facility signals greater openness 
than the secretary had envisioned. They said Coben's party, which 
included Adm. Joseph Prueher, commander-in-chief of the U.S. 
Pacific Command, were impressed with the center's sophisticated 
integration. The center can track both aircraft and missiles and 
apparently also can launch surface-to-air missiles, although 
nobody in the visiting party actually observed that capability.
	Cohen said his trip here signaled a growing level of 
military cooperation following Jiang's summit meeting with 
President Clinton in Washington last October. During his 
scheduled visit with Jiang before departing for Tokyo Jan. 20, 
the secretary was expected to sign more agreements for further 
military exchanges between the two countries.

image Before departing China Jan. 20, Secretary of Defense William Cohen posed for photographs with Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the state guest house in Beijing. Cohen traveled to China and six other East Asian countries Jan. 10-22 to promote U.S. security interests in the region. He told Asian leaders, whose nation's are weathering a severe economic crisis, America stands with them in good times and bad. Douglas J. Gillert


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