Top U.S., China Military Officers Call Talks Frank, Fruitful

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)

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