2012-07-17 — SENIOR Australian and US Army commanders have welcomed China’s attendance at a top-level gathering of Asia-Pacific military chiefs in Canberra to discuss disaster relief preparedness.
The 36th annual Pacific Armies Management Seminar attended by senior army officials from 27 countries included a high level delegation from the Peoples Liberation Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison said last night.
A “terrific dialogue” exists between the PLA and its Australian counterpart, the Australian Army chief told reporters.
“The Chinese delegation here is headed by a major-general.
“They’ve got an enormous amount to offer – they are a major country in the region and have great experience in terms of the types of areas we’re looking at in this management seminar,” Lieutenant-General Morrison said.
His comments follow a call last Friday by the US Navy’s commander of Pacific Forces, Admiral Sam Locklear, for greater engagement by Beijing in joint military exercises involving the US and Australia at a time of rising tensions in the South China Seas.
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Lieutenant-General Morrison said there was a regular exchange of two-way visits by Chinese and Australian Army officials.
“They’ve come here and they’re keen to broaden their engagement with the region and from an Australian perspective, we very much welcome that.”
The PAMS seminar provided a unique chance for “open, frank discussions” including with the PLA, said Lieutenant-General Francis Wiercinski, Commanding General of the US Army in the Pacific.
“It’s transparency about what we’re all doing so there cannot be any miscue, misstep or miscalculation. I think it’s wonderful that they (PLA) came,” he said.
While the PAMS seminar offers a unique opportunity for military chiefs to exchange information on shared experiences tackling natural disasters, it can also serve as an informal forum to raise other issues.
However, shared experiences on disaster relief and recovery efforts loomed large during yesterday’s meetings.
“Sharing these lessons with our Pacific neighbours and hearing their solutions to catastrophic incidents, like the 2011 tsunami in Japan and Thailand floods, offers an extremely valuable exchange for the benefit of all citizens in the Pacific region.
“I feel honoured to welcome so many of my colleagues from across the Pacific here in our nations capital for this collaborative exchange.”