USA/China — DOD News Briefing with Under Secretary Flournoy from the Pentagon

MS. FLOURNOY: Good after­noon. Sor­ry to keep you wait­ing. I just con­clud­ed a very fruit­ful day of meet­ings with Gen­er­al Ma, who’s the deputy chief of the PLA gen­er­al staff and who came to Wash­ing­ton with his team for the 11th round of the U.S.-China Defense Con­sul­ta­tive Talks.
We had a very enjoy­able din­ner last night, host­ed by the Chi­nese ambas­sador at his — at his res­i­dence. And I look for­ward to rec­i­p­ro­cat­ing tonight with a din­ner for Gen­er­al Ma at the U.S. Capi­tol.

This has been my sec­ond round of talks with Gen­er­al Ma, and I’m very pleased about the sub­stance and the can­dor of our dis­cus­sions. This meet­ing was real­ly part of a restart of the U.S.-China mil-to-mil rela­tion­ship. And it’s a very impor­tant one. We dis­cussed the rela­tion­ship itself, which was an inte­gral part of our pos­i­tive, coop­er­a­tive and com­pre­hen­sive bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship with China. 

We reaf­firmed sev­en points of con­sen­sus that Sec­re­tary Gates and Chi­nese Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion Vice Chair­man Gen­er­al Xu achieved when Gen­er­al Xu was here in the Unit­ed States last year. And we dis­cussed how to devel­op a more durable frame­work to shift the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship to a more sus­tained and reli­able and con­tin­u­ous footing. 

We dis­cussed the impor­tance of mar­itime safe­ty and of main­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion when inci­dents arise, and we agreed to con­tin­ue mak­ing progress under what we call the MMCA, the Mil­i­tary Mar­itime Con­sul­ta­tive Agreement. 

We also dis­cussed avenues of coop­er­a­tion across a broad range of region­al secu­ri­ty issues, includ­ing Africa, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pak­istan and Iran. And on the lat­ter point, I high­light­ed China’s pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions in sup­port of the P5-plus‑1 process and in imple­ment­ing U.N. sanc­tions against Iran. 

We also exchanged views on the U.S. Nuclear Pos­ture Review and our Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Review reports, both of which were pub­lished ear­li­er this year. And we dis­cussed the impor­tance of Chi­na con­tin­u­ing to make progress in improv­ing its open­ness and trans­paren­cy in defense matters. 

We also dis­cussed the upcom­ing vis­it to Chi­na by Sec­re­tary Gates and state — the state vis­it to the Unit­ed States by Pres­i­dent Hu. And we believe that today’s meet­ing will help con­tribute to set­ting a pos­i­tive tone and cre­at­ing suc­cess in both of these events. 

So in sum, these were very pos­i­tive dis­cus­sions. While I won’t say that we agreed on every issue, where we did dif­fer, we had a very can­did and frank and pro­duc­tive exchange of views. These kinds of talks, I believe, con­tribute to improv­ing the basis for a more coop­er­a­tive rela­tion­ship between our two coun­tries and our two mil­i­taries over time. 

So with that, let me take your ques­tions. I know that Bryan — STAFF: We’ll take three or four real quick, and get you out of here. So let’s go ahead and get started. 

Luis, you got the first one. 

Q: Ms. Flournoy, can we ask you what were some of those issues that — where you did not agree and where you did have frank and can­did discussions?

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, I think that there are issues that we have worked on over time, such as mar­itime safe­ty and secu­ri­ty, where we both agree on the impor­tance of safe­ty and secu­ri­ty. We both agree on the impor­tance of abid­ing by inter­na­tion­al law and norms. And yet at times, there are inci­dents or activ­i­ties that occur where we have a dif­fer­ence of per­spec­tive. And we need an oppor­tu­ni­ty to air those views. The MMCA offers that avenue at the sort of tac­ti­cal and oper­a­tional lev­el. And our talks today real­ly allowed us to dis­cuss these issues at a much more strate­gic level. 

STAFF: Thom, go ahead, and then we’ll go to Justin. 

Q: Thank you, Madam Sec­re­tary. You men­tioned North Korea was on the agen­da. Can you describe what you might have asked the Chi­nese to do to help resolve the ten­sions on the penin­su­la, and do you think they’re doing enough? And do you leave today expect­ing them to do some­thing spe­cif­ic to help?

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, Chi­na has been a very impor­tant part­ner his­tor­i­cal­ly with regard to deal­ing with North Korea, par­tic­u­lar­ly in peri­ods where it has been — shown provoca­tive behav­ior. So we dis­cussed our com­mon inter­est in peace and sta­bil­i­ty in the region. We dis­cussed the impor­tance of North Korea end­ing its provoca­tive behav­ior. We dis­cussed the impor­tance of get­ting back to — get­ting North Korea back on a path to demon­strat­ing its will­ing­ness to denuclearize. 

And so it was a very pro­duc­tive “com­par­ing of notes,” if you will, on the sit­u­a­tion, rec­og­niz­ing that that dia­logue will also be hap­pen­ing in oth­er non­mil­i­tary chan­nels as well. 

Q: You men­tioned open­ness and trans­paren­cy came up. I won­der if the April 8th inci­dent, where Chi­na tem­porar­i­ly took over 15 per­cent of the world’s Inter­net and rout­ed traf­fic through their servers, I won­der if that came up at the time. The Pen­ta­gon said they weren’t aware of any mali­cious intent asso­ci­at­ed with that. Did you ask about that? What was behind that? 

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, the open­ness and trans­paren­cy we — dis­cus­sion we had today was real­ly with regard to our strate­gic poli­cies, our defense capa­bil­i­ties devel­op­ment, our broad­er defense doc­trine and so forth. So it was — it — while we specif­i­cal­ly dis­cussed our Nuclear Pos­ture Review, Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Review and Space Pos­ture Review on our side, and they shared with us some of their think­ing on their strat­e­gy and capa­bil­i­ties devel­op­ment. But we did not get specif­i­cal­ly into that issue. STAFF: We’ll take a cou­ple more. Let’s go Vio­la and down to Al. 

Q: Sec­re­tary Flournoy, do you feel like you’ve moved the ball for­ward in — if is the 11th round of talks like this? The U.S. has been con­cerned for a long time about Chi­nese trans­paren­cy. Do you feel like you moved the ball on any of these issues, and what specifically? 

And in rela­tion to trans­paren­cy, did you give them any infor­ma­tion to sort of demon­strate U.S. trans­paren­cy, any infor­ma­tion that they may not have had in the past, for exam­ple, or to per­suade them on North Korea, for example? 

MS. FLOURNOY: I do think we moved the ball for­ward. And we have seen some grad­ual increas­es in China’s trans­paren­cy and also in their can­dor with us on a vari­ety of top­ics, par­tic­u­lar­ly the — I’m speak­ing here of the Chi­nese military. 

And, you know, we gave them the same NPR, BMDR, Space Pos­ture Review brief­in­gs that we gave our clos­est allies. So part of what we were doing today was mod­el­ing trans­paren­cy. And they gave us a very inter­est­ing brief about their defense doc­trine and their — how they view the world and the role of their mil­i­tary in it. So in that sense, I think it was a step for­ward and very — very useful. 

I also feel that the tone of the dis­cus­sions was more pos­i­tive, more frank. We are more able to dis­cuss our dif­fer­ences in a very pro­fes­sion­al and sub­stan­tive and, frankly, for me, enlight­en­ing way. And that’s a step forward. 

STAFF: Al, you’ve got the last one. 

Q Madam Sec­re­tary, do you feel that — did you get any com­mit­ment, let me say, from the Chi­nese on what you called estab­lish­ing a durable frame­work for — on a more sus­tained foot­ing, so that we don’t have these breaks, these freezes in relations? 

And also, could you give us some details about what con­cerns either were alle­vi­at­ed or that you still have regard­ing Chi­nese capa­bil­i­ty development? 

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, I think that we did agree to a frame­work of activ­i­ties and dia­logue for the com­ing year, includ­ing some high-lev­el vis­its, like Sec­re­tary Gates’ vis­it next — ear­ly next year. And there’s a whole slate of oth­er vis­its and exchanges that we hope will occur, as well as a num­ber of dia­logues that we will — we hope will meet sev­er­al times. 

We’re still flesh­ing out the details of that work plan, if you will. But we heard the Chi­nese also embrace the idea of the val­ue of hav­ing a steady and reli­able and sus­tained dia­logue. And that was very good news to us. 

Q: But it’s not a commitment. 

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, I think there are cer­tain things we’ve com­mit­ted to. We’re work­ing through the cal­en­dar, and we still have to reach agree­ment on some of the more dis­tant events in the future. 

Q: And I’d asked about the capa­bil­i­ties you’re con­cerned about? 

MS. FLOURNOY: You know, I think that we had some good dis­cus­sions about, frankly, con­cerns that we have and con­cerns that they have, on both sides. Again, I would­n’t high­light spe­cif­ic capa­bil­i­ties as much as the need to be able to have fora where we can dis­cuss — bet­ter under­stand their capa­bil­i­ties devel­op­ment and, most impor­tant­ly, their intent and how this fits into their strat­e­gy and their doctrine. 

STAFF: Well, thank you. I know it’s 6 p.m., and I thank you for stay­ing around for tonight’s briefing. 

MS. FLOURNOY: Thank you. 

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

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