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Beijing (AFP) July 15, 2014
The chief of the US Navy met his Chinese counterpart Tuesday for talks aimed at improving cooperation between their fleets following concerns over regional territorial disputes and potential armed conflict.
Admiral Wu Shengli, commander in chief of China's navy, welcomed Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the US chief of naval operations, with a red-carpet ceremony and an honour guard at his headquarters in Beijing.
They did not speak to reporters but a US navy official said the visit was meant to "look at ways to increase the cooperation between our navies".
It was the two men's "fourth interaction" over about the past year, he said, adding: "It obviously improves our understanding of each other also."
Greenert's trip is set to last until Friday and will include a visit to China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
Tensions are mounting over maritime disputes in the East China Sea between Beijing and Tokyo, as well as in the South China Sea between Beijing and Hanoi, Manila and others.
The official, who demanded anonymity, said it was "hard to say" if specific instances of regional tensions would come up in the talks.
"Those things exist but the intent of these meetings is to look at ways that we can work better together so we can improve the understanding between our navies," the official said.
"And once we have those understandings maybe we can then solve some of these other complex issues."
China's neighbours are increasingly worried that Beijing's maritime disputes will lead to military hostilities, a US research group said in findings released Monday.
"This year in all 11 Asian nations polled, roughly half or more say they are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbours will lead to a military conflict," according to a broad study conducted in 44 countries by the Pew Research Center.
Even in China itself, the study showed that 62 percent of the public worried that territorial disputes between China and nearby countries could spur fighting.
Greenert's visit is also part of efforts to intensify dialogue between the US and Chinese militaries.
US Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno visited China in February and said Beijing and Tokyo must enhance communication to avoid "miscalculations" over the East China Sea.
US President Barack Obama told Chinese President Xi Jinping in a telephone conversation on Monday that he was determined to constructively manage growing differences between their two nations.
Points of contention include trade, cyber espionage and US support for security allies Japan and the Philippines.
Beijing steps up 'naked officials' crackdown
At least 10 Chinese provinces have launched investigations to track down so-called "naked officials", the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper reported.
They include south China's Guangdong province and neighbouring Fujian province, both regions with a long history of migration.
The term "naked official" refers to a government employee whose immediate family members have acquired citizenship or permanent residency overseas, potentially allowing them to spirit ill-gained wealth out of the country.
Since 1990, about 18,000 corrupt officials have fled China with a total of more than $120 billion, according to a 2011 report by the People's Bank of China.
Many of them used family members to stash their funds beyond China's borders.
According to the Southern Metropolis Daily report, the ruling Communist Party's Central Organisation Department has called for "naked officials" to be barred from holding key positions in the central and provincial government.
Some provinces have launched internal campaigns to "thoroughly study and analyse the problem", it added.
Last month, Guangdong province took action against 866 "naked officials", who were transferred or forced into early retirement, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping took office last year vowing to root out corrupt officials, warning that graft could destroy the party.
Corruption causes widespread public anger and the drive has been widely touted.
But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to combat it, while citizen activists calling for such measures have been jailed on public order offences.
Obama and China's Xi discuss Iran, North Korea: White House
In a telephone call, Obama and Xi also discussed the international effort to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna and the need to ensure North Korea complies with demands for it to dismantle its nuclear program, the White House said in a statement.
The conversation took place after the annual US and China Strategic and Economic Dialogue between high ranking officials on both sides in Beijing last week.
The talks apparently did little more than paper over rising US-China differences including on trade and cyber hacking.
The two sides also disagreed on how to resolve tensions in the South and East China Seas, amid warnings from the United States that Beijing risks triggering conflict as it presses its claims to large swathes of territory -- to the alarm of many US allies in the region.
The White House statement said however that the dialogue had yielded "important progress."
"The President reaffirmed his commitment to developing a relationship defined by increased practical cooperation and constructive management of differences," the statement said.
"The President and President Xi discussed the need for continued US-China cooperation in the ongoing P5+1 negotiations with Iran and the implementation of (an interim nuclear deal)," the statement said.
"The President also stressed the need for enhanced communication and coordination on actions with China to ensure North Korea meets its denuclearization commitments."
Obama also told Xi that he was looking forward to seeing him at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing in November.
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