Ministry says efforts made to reschedule following cancellation
The Defense Ministry said on Monday that it has maintained communication with the United States on a possible later visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter after Carter reportedly canceled a planned visit to China this month.
A senior military researcher said Carter likely canceled the visit to put pressure on China, adding that U.S. defense authorities should not do such things for leverage.
In a written statement to China Daily, the Defense Ministry said that during a work meeting between Chinese and U.S. military authorities in January, the two sides exchanged views on the planned visit by Carter.
Carter's visit to China "has been listed in the plan for this year's China-U.S. military exchanges. ... The defense authorities of the two countries have maintained normal communication and coordination over the concrete time of the visit," said the statement.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Carter dropped his plan to visit Beijing this month during his trip to India and the Philippines amid tensions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea issue.
A report by Agence France-Presse said Carter's decision to skip China was made just a few weeks ago. Carter "did officially accept an invitation to travel to China in the spring", the report quoted Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban as saying. He added that "we are actively looking" for another date to visit China this year, the report said.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the cancellation of a planned visit is uncommon.
"If the two sides have agreed on the visit earlier, it should not be changed unless there are grave disputes on major issues," he said, adding that the cancellation should not be used to exert pressure on China.
In its statement, the Defense Ministry also said that China firmly opposes any activities that could harm the country's strategic security interests. It said the U.S. and the Republic of Korea should act prudently by not deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile-defense system.
"Every country should consider the security and interests of other countries as well as regional peace and stability while they seek self-security," the ministry said.
The statement was in response to Carter, who said on Friday that the proposed placement of the THAAD system in the ROK is "going to happen" despite China's opposition.
Carter told the think tank Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the deployment is necessary to safeguard U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and to protect South Korea, according to The Associated Press.
"It has nothing to do with the Chinese," Carter was quoted as saying.