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CSAF discusses opening communications with China

WASHINGTON (AFPS) --

Opening up lines of communication with China is good for the United States, the region and the world, the Air Force chief of staff said here Nov. 13.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III spoke about his recent trip to China with the Defense Writers Group this morning.

The general said he was treated very well by his counterpart and that his group may have benefited from a Chinese “charm offensive” following earlier meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Welsh said he toured Chinese air bases and saw demonstrations by Chinese pilots. He was able to speak with Chinese pilots and got “up close and personal” with some Chinese aircraft, he added.

“My biggest takeaway was I think we can communicate -- we can cooperate in a way that helps prevent misinformation and miscommunication (and) accidental confrontation,” Welsh said. “There are opportunities to continue that kind of engagement.”

Military-to-military contacts will never be the main pillar of the Sino-American relationship, he said, “but I think it can be part of the connective tissue.”

The U.S. Air Force is working with the Chinese in many different areas. There are professional military education exchanges, and Chinese and American service members are working together in various exercises. The two nations are building a working relationship for search and rescue operations, the general noted, and are cooperating on disaster assistance and humanitarian relief exercises as well. One such exercise is happening right now in Hawaii, he said.

“It’s been a good initiative to get into, and if we can do nothing else, it will set a new high-water mark for military-to-military relations,” he said. “Any step forward is a good step right now.”

Improving communications will help in the long run as U.S. and Chinese forces interact on land, at sea or in the air, Welsh said.

“We will come close together more and more and more in that part of the world, and being able to communicate better is going to be a good thing,” he added.

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