|Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during their meeting in the Pentagon in Washington D.C. , theUnited States, on Aug. 19, 2013. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese and U.S. defense chiefs agreed here Monday to take new steps to enhance military cooperation and exchanges between their countries.
The agreement was reached by visiting Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan and his U.S. counterpart, Chuck Hagel, during their talks at the Pentagon, which Hagel hailed as "very productive."
The efforts, they said, are aimed at elevating the bilateral military relationship to a new height for the sake of maintaining regional and global peace and stability.
Speaking at a joint news conference after the talks, Hagel said he restated to the Chinese guests the U.S. commitment to building "a positive and constructive relationship" with China.
He noted that the U.S.-China relationship is important to maintaining stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and safeguarding security and prosperity for the two nations in the 21st century.
"One of the themes we emphasized today was that a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar for this strong bilateral relationship," said Hagel.
"The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems," added the Pentagon chief.
For his part, Chang said the purpose of his first U.S. visit is "to implement the important consensus reached by (Chinese) President Xi Jinping and (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama of building a new model of major country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation."
The trip, he added, is also intended "to further increase mutual understanding, to enhance mutual trust, to promote mutual cooperation, and to push forward the sound and stable development of our national and military relations."
During the talks, the two sides held "candid and deepened" exchange of views over issues of common concern, and reached agreements on a number of new steps to boost bilateral military ties, Chang said.
In order to cement trust between the two militaries, they agreed to boost cooperation, expand defense exchanges and hold more joint exercises.
Chang invited Hagel for an official visit to China next year, which the U.S. defense chief accepted enthusiastically. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also offered to host his Chinese counterpart, Fang Fenghui, next year.
Meanwhile, Chang announced that at the invitation of the United States, the Chinese navy will join the RIM of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) for the first time next year.
Held biennially during June and July of even-numbered years in Honolulu, Hawaii, the U.S.-led RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise.
Also on Monday, the two militaries held a meeting in Hawaii to discuss cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This weekend, the Chinese and U.S navies will conduct the second counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden.
As part of the increased China-U.S. defense exchanges, Chinese midshipmen already joined a multinational exchange program at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis earlier this summer.
Chang and Hagel also discussed other bilateral and regional security issues of mutual concern, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, East and South China Seas, and cyber security.
In response to a media query on the U.S. rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific, Chang expressed his concern about the U.S. emphasis on the military aspect of the comprehensive policy.
He noted that the U.S. side has bolstered its military deployment and enhanced its alignments in the region by increasing the frequency and intensity of military cooperations and joint military drills with its allies and partners.
"From certain degree, this kind of intensified military activities further complicated the situation in the region," said Chang, expressing the hope that the U.S. strategy does not target a specific country.
"And on the other hand, we would like to have this rebalancing strategy balanced on different countries, as well, because the essence of rebalancing is -- balance," he added.
"What is the most important is that China is ready to work with the United States to maintain the regional peace and stability," said the senior Chinese official.
Chang started his U.S. visit on Friday in Hawaii, where he held talks with U.S. Commander of the Pacific Command Samuel Locklear. Over the weekend, he also met with Charles Jacoby, commander of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and of the U.S. Northern Command, both headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.