USA — Chairman Seeks to Restore Military Relationship With China

TOKYO, Dec. 9, 2010 — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed opti­mism that Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates’ vis­it to Chi­na next month, and a pos­si­ble vis­it to Wash­ing­ton ear­ly next year by Mullen’s Chi­nese coun­ter­part, could invig­o­rate the two coun­tries’ stalled mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship.
“I would hope that we can sus­tain that mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship as opposed to what it has been, which has been on-and-off over the years,” Mullen said today dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the U.S. Embassy here. 

That arrange­ment “does­n’t do either one of us … any good,” he said.

“We fol­low very close­ly the devel­op­ment of defense capa­bil­i­ties of Chi­na,” Mullen said. 

But “one of the real prob­lems of not hav­ing a rela­tion­ship is, I don’t under­stand much about what they are doing,” he said. “I don’t under­stand why they are doing it. I don’t under­stand the depth or the rea­sons for their mil­i­tary investments.” 

Chi­na says it wants a “peace­ful rise,” which “would be a pos­i­tive out­come for every­body,” Mullen said. But some of China’s invest­ments — includ­ing space and anti-ship capa­bil­i­ties — “don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly match up” with that goal, he said. 

“I’m hope­ful that we can get a rela­tion­ship estab­lished between our mil­i­taries, where we can have much more fruit­ful con­ver­sa­tions that are much more trans­par­ent than has been in the past,” the admi­ral said. “His­tor­i­cal­ly, our rela­tion­ship has been far too opaque.” 

Mullen reit­er­at­ed dur­ing today’s news con­fer­ence his call for Chi­na to exert its influ­ence to curb North Korea’s recent spate of provo­ca­tions. The most recent, a Nov. 23 artillery attack on South Korea’s Yeon­pyeong Island, left four peo­ple dead. 

“There is no coun­try in the world that has more influ­ence in Pyongyang than Chi­na,” the chair­man said. “And that is part of respon­si­ble lead­er­ship, … of being a glob­al pow­er, and I would hope [Chi­na] would heed this call and do that.” 

Mullen also acknowl­edged China’s com­plaints about U.S. mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the Yel­low Sea, but dis­missed them as baseless. 

“We were very trans­par­ent about when we were going to go there and what we were going to do,” he said. “And we went when we said we were going to go and we did what we told them we were going to do. And there were no prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with that.” 

The Unit­ed States oper­ates in these free waters with the sole rea­son of sup­port­ing region­al secu­ri­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the Kore­an penin­su­la, he said. 

“We have oper­at­ed in that part of the world for decades,” Mullen con­tin­ued, not­ing his own expe­ri­ence there as a young junior offi­cer sta­tioned in the Pacif­ic. “And we will con­tin­ue to do that in the future.” 

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

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