US, China navies urge more cooperation

US, China navies urge more cooperation
British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring is docked at the port area of Huangpu River after its arrival to Shanghai December 10, 2013. The HMS Daring has returned from the Philippines after delivering aid after Typhoon Haiyan hit the region.

Top navy officials from the United States and China have called on navies in the region to work more closely together to check tensions in the South China Sea and beyond.

Asia Pacific navies should expand their existing cooperation in areas like fighting piracy and on search-and-rescue missions, United States' chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, told a conference here on Tuesday.

They could also share more information and coordinate patrols to build trust, he added.

Otherwise, "unilateral action will increase the risk of miscalculation and misunderstanding out there", Admiral Greenert said.

Rear Admiral Wei Xueyi, chief of staff of China's South Sea Fleet, also called for greater maritime interaction, including on the tactical level, citing counter-terrorism. "We can also work together on maritime research like hydrological and meteorological survey and analysis, sharing data and skills."

They were speaking at an International Maritime Security Symposium organised by the Indonesian Navy to foster greater cooperation among navies from the Pacific and Indian Oceans, at a time when the risk of conflict has escalated.

Territorial spats in East Asia in recent weeks - in particular over Beijing's declaration of a new air defence identification zone (ADIZ) - have raised temperatures. Beijing has sought to downplay concerns, amid fears that it might in future declare such a zone over the South China Sea.

Rear Admiral Wei reiterated China's commitment to resolve maritime disputes peacefully. But he deflected a question on the ADIZ, saying: "That is outside the scope of the symposium."

He added: "If you want, we should get our government officials to sit down and discuss that."

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