Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert is seeking ways to bolster ties with the Chinese Navy. (MCC James E. Foehl / US Navy)
The Navy is seeking ways to bolster ties with the Chinese Navy, including exchanging officers and conducting fleet operations.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said these possibilities would be discussed when he hosts his counterpart, Adm. Wu Shengli, next week for a visit that starts in San Diego and then heads to Washington, D.C.
The US and Chinese navies have seen some recent cooperation, including when the US destroyer Mason and a Chinese destroyer landed each other’s helicopters as part of an anti-piracy exercise. Greenert wants to build on that by planning more exercises and operations and creating command and control rules, much as the Navy has when operating with other foreign navies.
“It takes too much time to get one simple operation going,” Greenert said Thursday in a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, D.C. “I want to move ahead in that so that our folks, when they get out there, they can do more.”
Greenert’s sitdown will be his first with the head of the People’s Liberation Army Navy since he took over as CNO two years ago. Greenert said he’s looking for “areas of overlap” between the navies, such as counter-piracy and humanitarian assistance.
It’s particularly important that the navies began exchanging mid-grade officers and senior enlisted so that people in both services had useful contacts and knew how each others’ fleets train and operate, Greenert said.
One Chinese ship is set to participate in next year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise for the first time and Greenert said another opportunity is a joint humanitarian mission, perhaps using both services’ hospital ships.
“I want to explore the opportunity of maybe doing a combined operation,” Greenet said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy would like to produce a bilateral code of conduct so that skippers and fleet bosses can readily talk to their counterparts, Greenert said, a step necessary to reduce the chance for a miscalculation. Indeed, the Chinese are locked in maritime disputes with many of their neighbors and are wary of the US’s so-called strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, where 60 percent of the Navy will be based by the end of the decade.
Asked what the Chinese have to gain from these talks, Greenert mentioned his visit last week with the Chinese Navy’s No. 2 officer. “He has the challenge of a growing navy and an assignment and an intent by their nation to operate in the South China Sea,” Greenert said. “Well, they know we’re going to be there too. And they frankly know that the Japanese Navy is going to be there and the Philippines. So he wants to move away from miscalculation and preclude an embarrassing scenario that they just wish they hadn’t gotten themselves into. And we all know these things can happen.”