U.S., Chinese Leaders Note Progress in Military Relationship

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2011 — U.S. and Chi­nese defense lead­ers are pleased with the progress the coun­tries are mak­ing in re-estab­lish­ing good mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions.
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Chi­nese Defense Min­is­ter Gen. Liang Guan­glie held bilat­er­al talks dur­ing the Shangri-La Dia­logue here today, the first time the Chi­nese defense min­is­ter has par­tic­i­pat­ed in the annu­al Asia secu­ri­ty con­fer­ence spon­sored by the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies.

Gates and Liang con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions that began in Jan­u­ary when the sec­re­tary vis­it­ed Bei­jing. The Chi­nese sus­pend­ed con­tacts with the U.S. mil­i­tary in 2009 in retal­i­a­tion for the Unit­ed States pro­vid­ing defen­sive weapons to Tai­wan.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao call mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary con­tacts between the two nations “an under­de­vel­oped” part of the broad­er rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na.

“In recent months, our two coun­tries have made some progress toward rec­ti­fy­ing this imbal­ance by joint­ly iden­ti­fy­ing areas of coop­er­a­tion,” Gates said at the start of the Shangri-La meet­ing.

Gates, who will retire as defense sec­re­tary at the end of the month, said he believes the U.S.-Chinese mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship is now on a more pos­i­tive tra­jec­to­ry. “Going for­ward, the U.S. and Chi­na must do more to work togeth­er on issues where we have com­mon strate­gic inter­est — pira­cy, dis­as­ter relief and North Korea,” he added.

The sec­re­tary said the two coun­tries agree in many areas, but that it is espe­cial­ly impor­tant that lead­ers con­tin­ue to work togeth­er in areas where there is dis­agree­ment. This will allow lead­ers of both nations to have greater clar­i­ty on each other’s inten­tions, he said.

“Togeth­er, we can show the world the ben­e­fits that arise when great nations col­lab­o­rate on mat­ters of shared inter­est,” Gates said.

The meet­ing was pro­duc­tive and cor­dial, said Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell.

“It focused on mov­ing for­ward with the agen­da that they set forth dur­ing the secretary’s vis­it in Jan­u­ary,” he said. “I think over­all the meet­ing focused more on areas of agree­ment rather than dis­agree­ment. Of course, areas of dis­agree­ment were raised, but they were sort of acknowl­edged and moved on from. Far more time was spent on things that col­lec­tive­ly need to be done mov­ing for­ward.”

Liang rec­og­nized the efforts Gates has made to advance the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship, Mor­rell said.

“He not­ed at least a cou­ple of times that the Chi­nese side appre­ci­at­ed Sec­re­tary Gates’ efforts, … and [that] with­out his per­son­al efforts, the progress that has been achieved over the past year would not have been pos­si­ble,” Mor­rell said. “The sec­re­tary thanked Gen­er­al Liang and said in retire­ment he hopes to mon­i­tor the for­ward progress with a fish­ing line in hand.”

The Chi­nese did raise issues they are con­cerned with, includ­ing arms sales to Tai­wan, a “hyp­ing” of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary threat and recon­nais­sance oper­a­tions off China’s coast, said a senior defense offi­cial speak­ing on back­ground.

Liang did bring up the Strate­gic Secu­ri­ty Dia­logue put in place fol­low­ing the Jan­u­ary meet­ings, the offi­cial said, adding that U.S. offi­cials were encour­aged that the Chi­nese see this as a ben­e­fi­cial forum for dis­cus­sion. Offi­cials dis­cussed cyber and mar­itime issues in the first meet­ing of the dia­logue last month, and offi­cials hope future meet­ings will dis­cuss nuclear mis­sile defense and space, the offi­cial added.

“There seemed to be agree­ment today that it would be worth­while to ded­i­cate more time to forth­com­ing dis­cus­sions,” a senior U.S. defense offi­cial said.

The meet­ing with Liang capped a full day of bilat­er­al meet­ings for the sec­re­tary. Gates also met with Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Mohamed Najib bin Abdul Razak, Japan­ese Defense Min­is­ter Toshi­mi Kitaza­wa and Singapore’s Defense Min­is­ter Ng Eng Hen.

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

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