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Shalikashvili: U.S., China Share Vital Interests

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 1997 – U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region benefits China as well as other nations, U.S. Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili told students at China's top military school.

Speaking at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University in Beijing May 14, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the United States is committed to maintaining 100,000 American troops in the region. Their mission: to protect vital security and economic interests.

"To reduce our troop presence could destabilize the region and could set off a heated arms race in the area," Shalikashvili said. America's defense strategy is designed to prevent regional threats from becoming regional conflicts, he said.

Forward-deployed U.S. forces help maintain a peaceful, stable environment by their very presence and by providing security assistance to friends and allies, Shalikashvili said. Military-to-military contacts between regional nations promote communication and help reduce misunderstandings, he said.

Gen. Fu Quanyou, chief of the People's Liberation Army's General Staff Department, invited the American general to China. During the four-day visit, Shalikashvili met with Chinese government and army officials and toured Chinese military installations.

Shalikashvili said he first visited China 10 years ago with then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. John Wickham Jr. A decade later, he noted, China's "rapid economic growth and massive amount of construction are breathtaking, but these changes are not quite as breathtaking as the change in our political relations."

The goals of U.S. strategy in the region are "to deter war but, should deterrence fail, to be ready with military forces that are prepared to fight and win; to bolster America's economic revitalization, primarily by means of free and open trade; and to promote democracy abroad," he said.

The "unpredictable regime in Pyongyang [North Korea]," is the biggest threat to regional peace, Shalikashvili said. "This threat is magnified by the regime's current economic problems and its apparent inability to feed its population," he said. "Today, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula is worse than it was 25 years ago when I served there as military planner."

Shalikashvili said the United States welcomes China's participation in four power talks aimed at reunification of North and South Korea and efforts to reduce tensions on the peninsula. "We appreciate China's efforts to help us keep nuclear weapons off the Korean Peninsula," he said.

Other Asia-Pacific threats include territorial disputes over Japan's northern territories and the Spratley islands in the South China Sea, Shalikashvili said. Nuclear, chemical and missile technology proliferation are also dangers, he said. "We are very concerned about arms transfers by China to Pakistan and to Iran."

Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty is a major concern to all nations in the region, Shalikashvili said. "As the clock in Tiananmen Square counts down the hours, we hope that the reversion of this vibrant city to Chinese control takes place peacefully and with respect for the welfare and human rights of the people involved."

Tensions over Taiwan also concern the region's defense officials, he said. "I would be remiss if I did not add here that last March we were concerned by the harsh rhetoric and some of the military actions in that area that may have had unpredictable consequences," Shalikashvili said. The United States remains committed to the policy of one China, he said.

"We hope future developments concerning Taiwan will take place peacefully, with full respect for the welfare and human rights of the people involved, as well as for freedom of navigation in the area," Shalikashvili said.

The United States is a trading nation with one-third of its annual product tied to exports and imports, he noted. For that reason, the United States will undoubtedly remain in the Asia-Pacific region, home to five of America's top 10 trading partners, he said. U.S. trade with East Asia alone is more than $400 billion a year, accounting for 3 million American jobs and 40 percent of the nation's total trade, he said.

"Thus, for both economic and security reasons, we in the United States believe that peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region are vital to our interests," Shalikashvili said. "And we know that to a large extent, you share many of those same interests."

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