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China, US armies agree to framework for dialogue
[SHANGHAI] The US and Chinese armies have agreed on a framework for dialogue, and will soon augment a shared code of conduct with guidelines to avert errors or mishaps when their aircraft operate near each other, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Friday's signing of the dialogue pact in Washington comes three months ahead of a planned visit to the United States by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Tension has been rising in the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands its neighbours fear could eventually be used as military outposts.
Last month, China protested to the United States after a US spy plane with a television crew aboard flew close to the artificial islands it is building.
Guan Youfei, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of China's defense ministry, said the two armies could hold joint exercises on land next year based on the code of conduct, "to make sure its terms are implemented correctly", the newspaper said on Monday.
China's defence ministry expects the dialogue framework "to open a new channel for leaders in the two armies to raise and discuss issues of mutual concern, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response practices," a government news website, china.org.cn, quoted the ministry as saying.
The new guidelines on air-to-air encounters aim to reduce the risk of miscalculation or accidents when aircraft from the two countries operate close to each other, it said.
China was committed to reaching consensus on the guidelines before September, it added.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday met Fan Changlong, a deputy head of China's powerful Central Military Commission, and repeated a US call for a halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea, while stressing that the Pentagon remained committed to expanding military contacts with China.