U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta sought to
reassure China over the U.S. strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific on
Wednesday, after China also voiced concerns over a US-Japan military
Panetta gave a speech to cadets at a Chinese military academy, where he "outlined the importance of US-China defence ties as the U.S. rebalances to Asia," a Pentagon spokesman said.
Earlier Wednesday he held a "successful" meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to lead the ruling Communist Party from next month, the spokesman said.
The meeting with Panetta was Xi's first reported diplomatic event since scheduled meetings with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other visitors were cancelled during an unexplained two-week absence from public events this month.
Xi said Panetta's three-day visit would help to "further advance the relationship between the two militaries," state media reported.
Chinese military officials on Tuesday told Panetta they opposed a US-Japan security pact that covers the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan.
"China opposes the claim that the Diaoyu Islands fall within the US-Japan security treaty," state media quoted Xu Caihou, a vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, as saying.
Xu urged the U.S. to "honour its commitment of not taking sides on the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands," the official Xinhua news agency said.
Panetta arrived in Beijing from Tokyo late Monday amid an escalating dispute between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea.
Following talks with Defence Minister Liang Guanglie on Tuesday, Panetta urged calm between the East Asian neighbours.
"It's in no country's interest for this situation to escalate into conflict that would undermine peace and stability in this very important region," he said.
Liang said Beijing wanted to negotiate a solution to the dispute over the islands but would "reserve the right to take further action."
Panetta's visit includes planned tours of other military sites and a Chinese naval submarine and frigate.
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