Mullen Calls for Stronger U.S.-China Military Ties

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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