WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2011 — The military-to-military relationship between the United States and China has been restored, and this gives Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates the chance to discuss substantive issues with his Chinese counterparts next week, senior defense officials said today.
Gates also will travel to Tokyo and to Seoul, South Korea, in the weeklong trip.
Officials said they see Gates’ visit to Beijing as a chance to press for a military-to-military dialogue that continues to function even if the relationship falls upon some rocky times. China has started and stopped the military and security relationship in response to political decisions. Last year, in response to the United States selling arms to Taiwan, China suspended its military-to-military contacts with the United States. It has taken months to re-establish the contacts.
“We’ve managed over the past couple of months through the military maritime consultative meetings held in Hawaii and the defense consultative talks in Washington last month to get the military-to-military relationship moving again,” a senior official said, speaking on background. “We’re hopeful … we can have productive discussions in Beijing about how we build a more durable framework to ensure as we go forward we have a relationship in the military-security sphere that is reliable and sustainable and allows us to have clear lines of communications between our leaders.
“In essence,” the official continued, “we want to build a relationship between the Department of Defense and the [Chinese military], between the United States and China, that is defined not by the obstacles that stand between us, but by our common interests.”
The United States wants a stable, sustained and reliable military-to-military relationship with the Chinese, and nothing really precludes this, the official said. Pentagon officials noted that even in the darkest days of the U.S. relationship with the Soviet Union, the United States military still had ways to contact Soviet military leaders. China is not an enemy, and the United States and China should be able to continue dialogue, U.S. officials maintain.
Gates will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who then will fly to Washington for a state visit with President Barack Obama.
The secretary also will meet with Gen. Liang Guanglie, China’s minister of national defense; Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping; and Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. He also will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
The secretary will visit the Chinese army’s 2nd Artillery Corps, the headquarters of the Chinese nuclear command.
The secretary hopes to discuss a wide range of issues with Chinese officials, the senior official said, including areas where the United States and China have mutual concerns –- such as North Korea, Iran and piracy –- and areas where they disagree or are hazy, such as cybersecurity and military modernization.
The secretary looks forward to exploring areas where Chinese and American service members can work together such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “These areas would allow the two countries to cooperate and build more positive habits of mind,” the official said.
In Japan, the secretary will speak with leaders to deepen and strengthen the already strong alliance between the two nations. The U.S.-Japan alliance remains a cornerstone to security in the Pacific, the official said.
“We want to be able to expand on the areas where the United States and Japan are working together and also to consult with our Japanese friends and partners on some developments in the region, such as North Korea’s provocative actions,” he said.
The stop in Seoul will involve discussions to look at ways how the U.S. and South Korea can work more closely together to address North Korea’s provocations and North Korea’s nuclear and advanced missile programs, the official said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)