WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2010 — Upcoming meetings agreed to by the military leaders of the United States and China have renewed the prospect of strengthened military-to-military engagement, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff said today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke at the Center for American Progress in Washington on continuing challenges for cooperation between the nations and opportunities that may arise from adversity.
“Now that both countries have agreed to resume routine contacts as part of this important [aspect] of our relationship, the hard work really begins,” Mullen said. “The United States stands ready to do our part.”
The Chinese military suspended its military-to-military relationship with the United States earlier this year over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Then in October, when the U.S. and China sent representatives to Hanoi, Vietnam, for an inaugural meeting of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie formally invited Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to visit Beijing. Gates plans to make the trip early next year.
Next week, Mullen said, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy will host her Chinese counterpart during defense talks and a main point of discussion will be U.S.-China military ties. And Mullen has invited his counterpart — Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the Chinese army’s general staff — to visit the Pentagon, he said.
In November 2009, President Barack Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao made a commitment to advance sustained military-to-military relations, Mullen said.
“While we have not met that objective — and indeed have continued to encounter turbulence in the military-to-military relationship — it appears that we are on an upward trajectory,” the admiral added.
Working from a posture of mutual respect, thinking locally and globally about mutual security issues, and looking toward a shared future would make the resumption of military exchanges between the United States and China “most fruitful,” the chairman said.
“Many of our security issues have a common dimension, centered in places where China can exert a great deal of constructive influence and where our interests are aligned,” Mullen said.
This includes stability on the Korean peninsula, the safety of shipping lanes in Southeast Asia and assured access and equitable use of the global commons, he said.
The U.S.-China exchange should range farther and wider than the Asia-Pacific region, Mullen said, noting that China’s reach increasingly extends to extra-regional and global defense concerns, including Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and security in south and central Asia.
Both nations “recognize the emerging challenges of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, growing global energy demands,” he said, “and the geopolitical implications and stresses of climate change.”
China’s constructive role is essential “as we address the most recent of a long string of reckless acts by North Korea,” Mullen said.
With North Korea’s Nov. 20 revelation of a sophisticated uranium enrichment plant and its unprovoked Nov. 23 attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island that killed four people, “the ante is going up and the stakes are going up,” he said.
“The United States and China may view the situation differently, but we certainly share an interest in stability along the Korean peninsula,” the admiral said, adding that China is uniquely positioned “to guide North Korea to a less dangerous place.”
“The real question is will China answer that call?” Mullen said. “I am hopeful the answer will be yes.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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