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U.S. to Engage China via Military Contacts

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 1997 – Engaging China through military-to-military contacts will promote better understanding, clearer communications, greater confidence and deeper cooperation, U.S. Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said recently in Beijing.

Addressing students at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University May 14, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said military contact must not be limited to occasional meetings between senior officials, or routine troop or ship visits.

In a gesture demonstrating the U.S. policy of military transparency, or openness, the American general gave Chinese officials charts showing the location and status of U.S. forces worldwide, copies of DoD's annual report and detailed equipment publications. Shalikashvili said the United States hopes for an equal exchange from the People's Liberation Army.

"Our military-to-military contacts must deepen and become more frequent, more balanced and more developed," he said. "We, as two of the great superpowers in the Asia-Pacific region, both seek to decrease suspicion, further mutually beneficial military cooperation and lessen chances for a miscalculation in a crisis."

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

U.S. defense leaders hope to develop confidence-building measures, he said. They want Chinese service members to participate in multinational military activities and to develop regular dialog between senior military leaders.

Specifically, Shalikashvili said, U.S. officials wish to complete a military maritime and air cooperation agreement to improve communication between air and sea forces. "It will create common expectations and lessen the possibility of miscalculation throughout the vast Pacific Ocean area," Shalikashvili said.

Improving military contact will not be easy, the U.S. general noted. "In order to earn big dividends, we must make a big investment," he said. "If we listen to the suspicious side of our military minds, if we don't pursue exchanges on a fair and equitable basis, if we lack openness, transparency or reciprocity, or if we hold back even routine information on our military forces, then we will fail."

Success requires overcoming the past and struggling uphill to reach a better future, Shalikashvili said. "If we make that climb, if we get to the top, we will know the truth of the words spoken by [former Chinese Premier] Chou En-lai to President Nixon: 'On perilous peaks dwells beauty in its infinite variety.'"

Twenty-five years ago, Shalikashvili said, Nixon and Chou En lai approved the Shanghai Communiqu, "breaking a quarter century of hostility and misunderstanding and laying the foundation for a more fruitful relationship."

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