SINGAPORE — Economic and political cooperation between the United States and China has flourished despite differences over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and the same should be true of the military relationship between the two countries, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
|U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates speaks at the 9th International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore, June 5, 2010.
DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
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In a speech opening the first plenary session of the ninth annual “Shangri-La Dialogue,” an Asia security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Gates noted that although the arms sales have been going on for decades, China has cited them as its reason for breaking off interactions between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. “For a variety of reasons,” Gates said, “this makes little sense.” He pointed out that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been going on throughout the decades since the 1979 normalization of relations between the United States and China. In addition, he said, the United States has demonstrated for years that it does not support independence for Taiwan. “Nothing – I repeat, nothing – has changed in that stance,” he said.
And because China’s accelerating military buildup focuses largely on Taiwan, Gates added, U.S. arms sales are important to maintaining peace and stability across the Strait of Taiwan and throughout the region.
Considering all this, he said, President Barack Obama’s decision in January to sell selected defensive weapons to Taiwan should have come as no surprise.
“It was based on well-established precedent and the longstanding belief of the U.S. government that a peaceful and non-coerced resolution to the Taiwan issue is an abiding national interest, and vital for the overall security of Asia,” the secretary said.
Though the United States and China disagree on this matter, Gates told the delegates, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan over the decades since normalization have not impeded closer political and economic ties or closer ties in other security arenas of mutual interest.
“Only in the military-to-military arena has progress on critical mutual security issues been held hostage over something that is, quite frankly, old news,” he said. “It should be clear to everyone now – more than 30 years after normalization – that interruptions in our military relationship with China will not change United States policy toward Taiwan.” Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have advocated a positive military-to-military relationship between their countries, Gates noted. “The United States Department of Defense wants what both Presidents Obama and Hu want: sustained and reliable military-to-military contacts at all levels that reduce miscommunication, misunderstanding and miscalculation,” he said.
The absence of military-to-military relationships between the United States and China has a cost, Gates added. “I believe they are essential to regional security and essential to developing a broad, resilient U.S.-China relationship that is positive in tone, cooperative in nature and comprehensive in scope,” he said. “The United States, for its part, is ready to work toward these goals.”
Gates had hoped to visit Beijing while he was in the region to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, but Chinese officials conveyed the message recently that the timing wasn’t right. While en route to Singapore earlier this week, the secretary expressed his chagrin to reporters.
“I’m disappointed that the [People’s Liberation Army] leadership has not seen the same potential benefits from this kind of a military-to-military relationship as their own leadership and the United States seem to think would be of benefit,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)