ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 8, 2011 — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is traveling to China, where he will seek to expand and deepen the military-to-military relationship between the U.S. and the Asian nation.
Gates said he wants to continue a strategic dialogue between the nations that was interrupted last year after the Chinese objected to the United State selling defensive weapons to Taiwan.
The decision to protest the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan by cutting off military-to-military contacts with the United States is a purely political decision, Gates said. “To isolate of confine the reaction purely to the military arena, I think, is not consistent with the nature of the decision-making itself,” he said.
The secretary told the 18 reporters traveling with him that he hopes to speak about “strategies and policies and outlooks,” with Chinese defense and national leaders. “I believe that kind of a dialogue contributes, not only to greater understanding, but contributes to avoiding miscalculations and misunderstandings and miscommunications.”
Gates also wants the two nations to pick up where they left off in holding more exercises, having more high-level visits and more exchanges. “I’d like to see if we can move forward in those areas as well,” he said.
Gates arrives in China nine days before Chinese President Hu Jintao begins a state visit to the United States. The secretary said it is clear to him that both the U.S. and Chinese presidents want progress on military-to-military contacts between the nations.
“From the time of their first meeting, President Hu and President Obama wanted to see the military-to-military relationship strengthen,” he said.
“My own view is that a positive, constructive, comprehensive relationship between the United States and China is not just in the mutual interest of the two countries, but in the interests of the region, and I would say the globe,” he said.
The secretary said he wants the military relationship go forward in a way that is sustained and reliable, “that despite the ups and downs that come with any relationship that these channels remain open and the efforts together continue to go forward.”
China helped defuse tensions resulting from North Korea’s artillery attack on a South Korean island and a torpedo attack on a South Korean ship last year. The Chinese have also cooperated with the U.S. and many other nations in combatting piracy in the Indian Ocean and off Somalia.
Gates said he believes continuing the strategic dialogue will encourage transparency between the two nations.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)