China said Wednesday that it hopes to work with the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to promote healthy and stable ties between the two nations’ armed forces.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said efforts by both Beijing and Washington — including high-level visits, institutional consultations, academic exchanges, and joint training — have further developed military ties.
While the two powers have frequently spared over issues such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the disputed South China Sea, Yang said both have been trying to improve communication on the military front and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
Yang, however, admitted that serious challenges remain for the two rivals.
“Needless to say, Sino-U.S. military relations still face some deep-seated contradictions and obstacles,” he said. “We hope that the U.S. side will earnestly respect China’s core interests and respect its sovereignty, rights and interests.”
On the campaign trail, Trump was outspoken in his criticism of China over economic issues, but was more muted on military concerns in the region, instead focusing on domestic issues under his “America First” platform.
Trump surrogates, however, have said that the president-elect would likely leave in place or beef up many of the basic tenets of his predecessor’s much-vaunted Asia “pivot.”
China may also be expecting such a move from the new administration.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in a Nov. 17 editorial that while “multilateralism is not Trump’s style,” that did not mean he would shrink the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific.
Echoing Trump advisers, the editorial went on: “In order to protect U.S. interests in the region, Trump will probably project more military power and adopt Ronald Reagan’s ‘peace through strength’ philosophy. If negotiations cannot work out, Trump is more likely to use military force to protect U.S. national interests.”
For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping has reportedly told Trump that cooperation is the “only correct choice” for China and the United States.