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Marine base will not limit China, US saysMajor deployment of marines in Darwin is about ties with Australia and there is no plan to contain Beijing in the region, defence envoy tells PLA chiefReuters in Beijing and Minnie Chan09 December 2011The United States has sought to reassure Beijing that its expanding military ties with Australia are not aimed at containing China.US President Barack Obama said last month that the US was “here to stay” in Asia and reached a deal to put a de facto US military base in northern Australia.China denounced the plan and warned that it could erode trust and fan cold-war-era antagonism.Despite that, talks between US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy (pictured) and the deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, General Ma Xiaotian , went ahead on Wednesday.Flournoy said that Ma had asked about US intentions behind the plan to put 2,500 marines as well as fighter planes and navy ships on a base in Darwin.“We assured General Ma and his delegation that the US does not seek to contain China,” Flournoy said. “We do not view China as an adversary ... that the posture changes were first and foremost about strengthening our alliance with Australia.”“This really isn’t about China,” she said. “This is about Australia and ensuring that we remain present in the region in a way that is relevant to the kinds of particularly non-traditional challenges we face.”Despite Washington’s efforts to ease Beijing’s worries, some in China suspect the United States is seizing an opportune moment to advance its own interests at China’s expense.Jia Qingguo, a professor at Peking University’s school of international studies, said the talks could help both sides better understand each other and minimise the risk of misjudgment.“There are so many problems existing in the Sino-US military ties that we can never expect they will be solved with only one dialogue,” Jin said. “But at least the defence talks have provided a platform for both parties to exchange their ideas.”Flournoy is the first White House-level representative to attend the talks, which are held regularly between the PLA and the US military. Foreign relations specialist Yuan Peng said her attendance, and her comments, indicated that Washington valued its ties with Beijing.“The United States wants it both ways - cementing ties with its main ally [in the region] and shoring up links with Beijing,” said Yuan, a director at the Institute for American Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.China’s military modernisation and the growing reach of its navy are raising regional concerns that have fed into long-standing territorial disputes and risk speeding up military expansion across Asia.US allies such as Japan and South Korea have sought assurances from the United States that it would be a strong counterweight in the region.China has emphasised the defensive nature of its military strength. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated the point, saying China “has not in the past, and it will not in the future, present a danger to any country”.In discussions that she called positive, Flournoy said she had reiterated that US surveillance patrols near China’s coast were routine.“I assured the Chinese that we conduct these operations globally, in every region of the world, including near the coastlines of friends and allies,” she said.She said the two countries were hoping to reschedule military exchanges and joint counter-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden planned for next year. They had been postponed in the wake of US arms sales to Taiwan in September.
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