WASHINGTON, May 18, 2011 — The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his Chinese counterpart announced the completion of two days of talks that they agreed will move their militaries, and respective countries, closer together.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and the chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, Chinese army Gen. Chen Bingde, described their talks as frank and fruitful and said they made progress in building a stronger relationship.
“It has always been my view that we cannot wait until we are in a crisis to understand each other,” Mullen said alongside Chen at a Pentagon briefing today.
“Through these discussions, General Chen and I have a better understanding of one another. I believe that we have established a foundation upon which we can explain ourselves, and that we can begin to look forward to mutual transparency about what we are doing, how much we are spending, and where we are operating,” he said. Chen called for mutual respect between the countries and said cooperation is the mainstream of U.S.-China military relations.
“We shared a broad consensus on some major issues,” he said. “Certainly, we also disagree on some other issues.” Chen thanked Mullen for his invitation to the Pentagon and his involvement in Chen’s trip to the United States. Mullen, in turn, thanked Chen for inviting him and his wife, Deborah, to China, a trip he said the couple will make in the near future.
The groundwork for the meeting was laid earlier this year when China President Hu Jintao met with President Barack Obama in the White House. Also, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with Chinese leaders during a trip to Beijing in January.
Mullen and Chen issued a release to journalists describing areas they agreed upon during two days of meetings. The two agreed that a healthy, stable, and reliable military-to-military relationship is important to broader U.S.-China relations and both supported maintaining senior-level military communication.
Also, they agreed that there is mutual benefit in cooperative activities that reduce risk and improve safety and security. They agreed to navy exchanges including joint counter-piracy and other exercises in the Gulf of Aden.
Both also supported humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exchanges and exercises for next year, as well as a joint medical exercise and visits to each navy’s hospital ships. And they reaffirmed the value of cultural and sports exchanges as a way of improving mutual understanding and trust. American officials have called for more transparency in Chinese military capabilities and, in answer to questions from Chinese and American reporters, Chen said American claims of Chinese military capabilities are exaggerated.
“Our efforts to enhance China’s national defense and military capabilities … after rapid growth in our economic power, is compensatory in nature,” Chen said. “China’s efforts to enhance our military capabilities is mainly targeted at separatist forces … who have attempted to split Taiwan away from China.” And, Chen denied that China targets missiles at Taiwan, saying it amounts to only garrison deployment.
During his visit, Chen said he was surprised by the sophistication of U.S. military equipment.
“I can tell you that China does not have the capability to challenge the United States,” he said. Mullen said maintaining relations will shed light on each other’s capabilities.
“Part of the emphasis in our conversations is to try to move forward so these challenges don’t exist for our kids and our grandkids,” he said. “We’re committed to working our way through not just the easy issues, but also the hard issues,” Mullen added.
Mullen noted that China helped the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005, and was the first country to send a rescue team to Haiti following the 2009 earthquake there.
“As great powers, both of us have neighbors around the world,” Mullen said. “This is about the two of us being able to grow in ways that make it better for people around the world.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)