Mullen: U.S.-China Military Efforts Target Mutual Threats

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2011 — Progress in joint U.S.-China mil­i­tary ini­tia­tives tar­gets chal­lenges and secu­ri­ty threats faced by both nations and the region, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said yes­ter­day dur­ing a vis­it with mil­i­tary offi­cials in Bei­jing.

Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the gen­er­al staff of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, held a brief­ing there for reporters.

“We dis­cussed many impor­tant issues of mutu­al con­cern this morn­ing,” Mullen said, “and I believe we went a long way toward advanc­ing some of the ini­tia­tives to which we both com­mit­ted dur­ing your vis­it to the Unit­ed States in May.”

Chen vis­it­ed the Unit­ed States in May fol­low­ing a Jan. 11 vis­it to Chi­na by then-Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and a meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton Jan. 19 between Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao.

That day, in a joint state­ment, the lead­ers affirmed that a healthy, sta­ble and reli­able mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship is essen­tial for a pos­i­tive U.S.-China rela­tion­ship.

The mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship also was on the agen­da in meet­ings between the chair­man and Chen, who said that the Chi­nese place “great val­ue” on Mullen’s vis­it.

“In a peri­od of a lit­tle bit more than one month’s time, the senior mil­i­tary lead­ers of Chi­na and the Unit­ed States have real­ized exchanges of vis­it,” Chen said.

“This has been unprece­dent­ed in the past his­to­ry of engage­ment between Chi­nese and Amer­i­can mil­i­taries,” he added, send­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty on the com­mit­ment to imple­ment Obama’s and Hu’s vision for friend­ly and coop­er­a­tive mil­i­tary rela­tions.

Mullen’s trip has includ­ed vis­its to Chi­nese army units, facil­i­ties and bases. He observed a com­mand post exer­cise and vis­it­ed the Chi­nese army’s 2nd Artillery Corps head­quar­ters, where he viewed a CSS-7 short-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile on a mobile launch­er.

“I great­ly appre­ci­at­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty yes­ter­day to vis­it the 2nd Artillery,” Mullen said. “I know there have been oth­er vis­i­tors there his­tor­i­cal­ly, “but there were some spe­cif­ic details which I know I was the first to be able to see. I know Gen­er­al Chen made that a pri­or­i­ty, and it was a sig­nif­i­cant effort to rec­og­nize the impor­tance of my vis­it here.”

Meet­ing top­ics between the mil­i­tary lead­ers includ­ed Amer­i­can atti­tudes toward Chi­na, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, Chi­nese army force devel­op­ment and the South Chi­na Sea.

The South Chi­na Sea is a vital ship­ping lane with vast oil and gas deposits. Chi­na, Tai­wan, Viet­nam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philip­pines lay claim to over­lap­ping parts of it, caus­ing region­al fric­tion and sev­er­al recent con­fronta­tions.

Mullen said he and Chen had very frank dis­cus­sions on the issue, focus­ing on free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion.

“We have no dif­fer­ences with respect to free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion,” the chair­man said. “It’s a very impor­tant under­ly­ing prin­ci­ple that doesn’t just apply in the South Chi­na Sea, but applies around the world.”

The Unit­ed States will stay engaged in the issue, Mullen said, “[but] we choose not to take a posi­tion with respect to how the dis­putes should be resolved.”

He added, “We are very anx­ious to see that, one, the sea lanes stay open and, two, that these issues get resolved.”

The Unit­ed States has “endur­ing inter­ests in the region and we will con­tin­ue to sup­port those endur­ing inter­ests,” Mullen said. “We want to do it in a way that is sup­port­ive of this rela­tion­ship as well.”

Oth­er progress dur­ing Mullen’s vis­it includ­ed con­firm­ing that Mil­i­tary Mar­itime Con­sul­ta­tive Agree­ment work­ing groups will meet in Chi­na and at U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand in Hawaii to dis­cuss oper­a­tional safe­ty issues, and that U.S. and Chi­nese navies will con­duct joint coun­ter­pira­cy exer­cis­es in the Gulf of Aden by the end of this year.

“I was also grat­i­fied to begin dis­cussing more details about our efforts to con­duct joint human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter-relief exer­cis­es in 2012,” Mullen said.

Con­tin­u­ing his vis­it today, Mullen will tour mil­i­tary facil­i­ties out­side Bei­jing, the chairman’s spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kir­by, said.

Mullen will fly in a Chi­nese mil­i­tary air­craft to Jiing City to vis­it the 19th Avi­a­tion Divi­sion, where he will receive an oper­a­tional brief­ing, view a Sukhoi SU-27 sin­gle-seat, twin-engine Mach-2 class jet, and have lunch with Chi­nese mil­i­tary pilots.

After­ward, Mullen will trav­el to Hangzhou to see the 1st Divi­sion, 1st Group Army, and observe a com­mand post exer­cise before din­ing with Gen. Zhao Keshi, the Nan­jing Mil­i­tary Region com­mand­ing gen­er­al.

Tomor­row, Mullen’s last day in Chi­na, Kir­by said, the chair­man will vis­it naval facil­i­ties and units at the Zhoushan Naval Base.

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

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