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Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, speaks during a press conference on May 25, 2017. [Photo/VCG]

Good military relations can act as stabilizing factor, senior officer says

The Chinese military is aware of the recent passage of two United States naval ships through the Taiwan Straits and will remain vigilant, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, two US Navy ships-the guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale and supply vessel USNS Pecos-sailed through the Taiwan Straits in the third such operation this year. The previous trip was on Oct 22.

"The People"s Liberation Army is aware of the passage by US naval vessels, and we know their movements," Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang said at a news briefing in Beijing. "The PLA will remain vigilant and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday that the Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue in China-US ties. "We hope the US side will carefully handle Taiwan-related issues, thus avoiding damage to China-US relations and to peace and security in the Taiwan Straits," he said.

Commenting on recent developments in China-US military relations, Ren said the relationship is generally sound, adding that General Wei Fenghe, State Councilor and minister of national defense, had met with his US counterpart, James Mattis, three times in the last five months.

"The frequency is testimony to the overall stability between the two militaries," Ren said.

Both sides should maintain their strategic dialogue, increase institutional exchanges and practical cooperation, enhance mutual trust and properly manage risks, he said, adding that this would allow China-US military relations to be a stabilizing factor in bilateral ties.

Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said it is typical for the US to try to drive a wedge between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan by sending warships through the Taiwan Straits and boosting its military presence in the region.

Ren said the Chinese military opposes hyping up China-US confrontations, as done in the recent report by the US National Defense Strategy Commission, an independent agency whose board is appointed by the US House and Senate Armed Services committees.

The report, published on Nov 13, claimed the US is facing a "crisis of national security" brought about by eroding military superiority, and might "struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia".

On Nov 17, military personnel from the PLA Eastern Theater Command and the US Army Pacific concluded the five-day Disaster Management Exchange 2018 in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. The exchange aimed to share each side"s experience with humanitarian aid and disaster relief and to cultivate the willingness and capabilities of the two militaries in joint operations in this area.

Ren said the exercise can enhance dialogue and cooperation among military personnel, and increase mutual trust and learning, thus injecting positive energy into the China-US military relationship.