Senior China military officer leaves for U.S. amid tensions

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's top military officers left for an official visit to the United States on Monday, the Defense Ministry said, amid tension between the two countries over the South China Sea and cybersecurity. Fan Changlong, who is a deputy head of the powerful Central Military Commission, is on a "friendly" visit at the invitation of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and will also visit Cuba, China's Defense Ministry said in a brief statement. The world's two largest economies have been trying to develop military-to-military ties as a way of improving mutual trust, but relations have long been overshadowed by political arguments between the two governments. Last week, hackers broke into U.S. government computers, possibly compromising the personal data of four million current and former federal employees, with investigators probing whether the culprits were based in China, something China angrily denies. China and the United States are also at loggerheads over the disputed South China Sea, some 90 percent of which is claimed by China. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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