BEIJING: China’s defense ministry said on Thursday that navy chief Shen Jinlong plans to visit the United States in September, despite an escalating trade row that threatens to spill into other areas of tension between the two countries.
The announcement the ministry’s spokesman Wu Qian comes two months after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Beijing. China said that visit yielded positive results, and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe has accepted an invitation to visit the United States before the end of the year.
Speaking at a regular monthly news briefing, Wu said that Shen plans to visit the United States in the middle or towards the end of next month, to attend an international naval forum and also to pay a working visit to the country.
He gave no other details.
Ties between the two countries have been strained on a number fronts in recent months.
In May, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise, citing China’s military moves in the South China Sea. The US decision upset Beijing and was raised during the visit by Mattis, Chinese officials said at the time.
Beijing and Washington are also locked in a spiraling trade row that is threatening to worsen the relationship across the board, from cooperation on North Korea to the disputed South China Sea.
US backing for self-ruled Taiwan have also fueled China’s suspicions in recent months, as the current US administration has signaled fresh support towards the island that Beijing claims as its own.
The navy has been a key part of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious military modernization program that has rattled nerves around the region, though China says it has no hostile intent.