Gates Pursues Strategic Dialogue with China

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)

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