Gates Seeks Sustained Military Relationship with China

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)

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