Mullen: Partnerships Vital to Pacific Security Strategy

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 — America’s nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy pri­or­i­ties for the Asia-Pacif­ic region encom­pass both a bur­geon­ing rela­tion­ship with Chi­na and endur­ing secu­ri­ty com­mit­ments to oth­er coun­tries there, the nation’s senior mil­i­tary offi­cer said today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the For­eign Press Cen­ter here that his recent vis­it to Chi­na and the trip his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Gen. Chen Bingde, made here in May form “a basis for ongo­ing dia­logue and some very tan­gi­ble, com­mon chal­lenges we can con­tin­ue to work on togeth­er — things like pira­cy and ter­ror­ism and dis­as­ter relief oper­a­tions.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao have agreed to advance mil­i­tary rela­tions between the two coun­tries, Mullen said, while acknowl­edg­ing that “very real, very sub­stan­tive issues” inhib­it close coop­er­a­tion and part­ner­ship between the two nations.

The Chi­nese object to U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan and U.S. recon­nais­sance flights in inter­na­tion­al air­space, Mullen said, while the Unit­ed States objects to the use of coer­cion in set­tling dis­putes in the South Chi­na Sea, or any attempt to inhib­it free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and access to the glob­al com­mons — inter­na­tion­al waters and air­space — as well as cyber­space.

Dis­agree­ment is a healthy part of any rela­tion­ship, the chair­man said, express­ing the hope that a bet­ter rela­tion­ship between the U.S. and Chi­nese mil­i­taries would help to improve the lev­el of trust between the two nations.

We have a long way to go in our rela­tion­ship with Chi­na,” Mullen said, “and no recent his­to­ry of strate­gic trust upon which to build it.”

But build­ing a bet­ter mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with Chi­na can­not dom­i­nate U.S. plan­ning and force pos­ture deci­sions in the Asian-Pacif­ic region, the admi­ral said, cit­ing the U.S. rela­tion­ships with South Korea and Japan as vital.

South Korea has stead­fast­ly sup­port­ed U.S. secu­ri­ty efforts around the world, includ­ing in Afghanistan, and “our com­mit­ment to their defense and to secu­ri­ty on the penin­su­la remains unwa­ver­ing,” the chair­man said.

Mullen added that he believes the North Kore­an regime will again attempt to pro­voke hos­til­i­ties.

Thus far, [South Kore­an] lead­ers have shown com­mend­able restraint, but I think it would be a grave mis­take for the North to per­ceive this restraint as a lack of resolve or, in fact, of the capa­bil­i­ty of our alliance to defend itself,” he said.

Mullen said the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to work with Japan­ese Self-Defense Forces to improve their oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ties.

This was my first vis­it back to Japan after the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake and tsuna­mi last March, and I was struck by just how fast and how well the hard­est-hit areas were recov­er­ing,” he said. “I was also glad to hear from Japan­ese lead­ers that U.S. mil­i­tary con­tri­bu­tions to the relief effort were of the size and scale they most need­ed.”

Mullen said the Unit­ed States-Aus­tralia alliance is anoth­er mod­el for “inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, trans­paren­cy, and mean­ing­ful com­bined full-spec­trum capa­bil­i­ties.”

We will make it bet­ter with more joint oper­a­tions, exer­cis­es and exchanges,” he added.

U.S. strat­e­gy also includes seek­ing expand­ed mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion with India on non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, safe­guard­ing the glob­al com­mons and coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism, the chair­man said.

And we will expand our mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion and exer­cis­es with the Philip­pines, Thai­land, Viet­nam, Malaysia, Pak­istan, Indone­sia, Sin­ga­pore and oth­er states in the region,” he said, “work­ing with them to address com­mon threats to their sov­er­eign­ty and secu­ri­ty.”

The Unit­ed States also encour­ages oth­er nations to strength­en part­ner­ships with their neigh­bors, he said.

Rela­tion­ships mat­ter — not just bilat­er­al rela­tion­ships, but col­lec­tive ones, whether they include the Unit­ed States or not,” Mullen said. Mul­ti­lat­er­al rela­tion­ships improve under­stand­ing, sharp­en inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, strength­en region­al norms and encour­age respon­si­bil­i­ty in address­ing shared secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, he added.

The U.S. mil­i­tary will increase its empha­sis on work with the Asso­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Nations and oth­er mul­ti­lat­er­al forums, he said.

We are and will remain a Pacif­ic pow­er,” Mullen said. “Our mil­i­tary is and will remain the long arm of that pow­er. We will not shrink from old or new respon­si­bil­i­ties. And we most cer­tain­ly will not shrink from every oppor­tu­ni­ty to enhance peace and sta­bil­i­ty in this vital part of the world.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)