Flournoy Terms China Talks ‘Very Constructive’

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2011 — The lat­est round of defense talks between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na was “very con­struc­tive,” the Defense Department’s pol­i­cy chief said.

Mich�le Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, told reporters in Bei­jing yes­ter­day that her Dec. 7 meet­ings with People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Gen. Ma Xiaot­ian, deputy chief of the gen­er­al staff, includ­ed dis­cus­sions about the Asia-Pacif­ic region, the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

“We also dis­cussed our con­tin­ued work togeth­er in coun­ter­pira­cy and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and trans­paren­cy between our two coun­tries,” Flournoy said.

Flournoy said a series of high-lev­el meet­ings held over the last year involv­ing both nations’ pres­i­dents and senior defense offi­cials focused on “sup­port­ing pos­i­tive, coop­er­a­tive and com­pre­hen­sive rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na.”

The Pentagon’s pol­i­cy chief also said she and Ma agree their coun­tries share mutu­al goals. “We have the com­mon goal of pre­serv­ing peace and sta­bil­i­ty in Asia — now and in the future — and that we must coop­er­ate on issues that will impact both of our coun­tries,” she said.

Flournoy said she assured Ma the recent­ly announced rota­tion­al deploy­ment of U.S. Marines to Aus­tralia is not direct­ed at Chi­na, but is about strength­en­ing mutu­al capa­bil­i­ties with an “incred­i­bly stead­fast ally.”

“The U.S. does not seek to con­tain Chi­na; we do not view Chi­na as an adver­sary,” Flournoy said. “[I explained] that these pos­ture changes were first and fore­most about strength­en­ing our alliance with Aus­tralia.”

The broad­er U.S. pol­i­cy, she added, is “to con­tin­ue to invest in our alliance with Aus­tralia, to build the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty between our two forces, but also to con­tribute to the sta­bil­i­ty of the region and reas­sur­ing part­ners in the region.”

Talks in Bei­jing also focused on Tai­wan and the South Chi­na Sea, she said, acknowl­edg­ing that “no new ground” was bro­ken. The U.S. posi­tion on the South Chi­na Sea is not to take sides in dis­putes between coun­tries over the ter­ri­to­ries or resources, but to remain com­mit­ted to see­ing those dis­putes resolved peace­ful­ly and in accor­dance with inter­na­tion­al law, Flournoy explained.

Regard­ing Tai­wan, Flournoy said she explained to her Chi­nese hosts that the Unit­ed States believes pro­vid­ing defense capa­bil­i­ties and sup­port to Tai­wan for their self-defense actu­al­ly puts them in a posi­tion where they can feel com­fort­able com­ing to the nego­ti­at­ing table.

“We wel­come the reduc­tion of ten­sions across the straits,” she con­tin­ued, “and we encour­aged fur­ther steps to be tak­en to fur­ther reduce those ten­sions.”

Flournoy added, “We had a good exchange of views and I think both sides under­stood each oth­er well.”

Though this week’s dis­cus­sions did not focus on Japan or the Philip­pines, Flournoy said told the Chi­nese that, “our pos­ture changes in Aus­tralia will not affect our pos­ture in North­east Asia, and that our forces that are com­mit­ted to the defense of Japan will remain there.”

The under sec­re­tary said the two sides also exchanged views on the Mid­dle East sit­u­a­tion in the wake of the “Arab Spring” upris­ings in the Mid­dle East.

“We … empha­sized that we see this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to align long­stand­ing U.S. inter­ests in the region with sup­port for uni­ver­sal val­ues,” Flournoy said. “We do believe that we need to work with oth­er coun­tries to reduce some of the risks that are atten­dant to this kind of rapid change, such as the risk of vio­lent extrem­ists gain­ing influ­ence in some of these coun­tries.”

The talks result­ed in an agree­ment between the two nations to con­tin­ue engage­ments in the com­ing year, Flournoy said.

“We hope that that will include a num­ber of high lev­el vis­its as well as a num­ber of joint exer­cis­es in areas such as human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and coun­ter­pira­cy,” she added. “We do envi­sion those activ­i­ties going for­ward in 2012.”

She not­ed the Chi­nese have been “very active” in coun­ter­pira­cy oper­a­tions.

“They’ve escort­ed not only a num­ber of Chi­nese ships in the Gulf of Aden area, but also a num­ber of non-Chi­nese ships, includ­ing some of the World Food Pro­gram ship­ments to Soma­lia,” Flournoy said. “So this is a very pos­i­tive area of engage­ment for them, … and it’s an area that we would like to share best prac­tices and lessons learned, so it’s a good area for exer­cis­es.”

Flournoy said she also reas­sured the Chi­nese that rou­tine U.S. mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the Pacif­ic are just that.

“We con­duct these oper­a­tions glob­al­ly, lit­er­al­ly in every region of the world, includ­ing near the coast­lines of friends and allies,” she said. “It’s a crit­i­cal part of cre­at­ing sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness for a force that’s glob­al­ly deployed. And it’s rou­tine, and as I said, con­duct­ed glob­al­ly and in many oth­er parts of the world.”

Flournoy said she and Ma also dis­cussed Pak­istan.

“We both have an inter­est in Pakistan’s sta­bil­i­ty, in its devel­op­ment and pros­per­i­ty, and in its secu­ri­ty,” she said. “We talked about ways in which each of us could help Pak­istan deal with some of the chal­lenges it faces, includ­ing vio­lent extrem­ism inside its own bor­ders.”

Flournoy said she told Ma U.S. lead­ers have expressed con­do­lences to the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment and the mil­i­tary and the fam­i­lies for the “trag­ic events” that occurred on the bor­der when a cross-bor­der attack left 24 Pak­istani sol­diers dead. She explained to Ma, she told reporters, that the inci­dent is being inves­ti­gat­ed and the Unit­ed States will share results with Pak­istan.

“We are still fig­ur­ing out exact­ly what hap­pened, and we should not pre­judge the sit­u­a­tion until we get to the truth of the facts,” Flournoy added. “But in any case, this is a very trag­ic set of loss­es for them, and we very much extend our con­do­lences to them.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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