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U.S., China to Resume Military Relations

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2000 – U.S. and Chinese defense leaders agreed Jan. 26 to resume military-to-military relations.

China severed relations with the United States last year after a U.S. plane mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, May 7 during NATO Operation Allied Force. The accident killed three persons and injured 20.

After a meeting here with Chinese People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced he had accepted the general's invitation to visit Beijing later this year.

Cohen, who last visited the People's Republic of China in 1998, termed his meeting with the Chinese military chief as "very cordial." "I think that we are on track to getting military-to-military relations back at a normal state of affairs."

DoD's steps toward restoring relations with China are part of an overall administration effort. President Clinton called on Congress to establish permanent normal trade relations with China in his State of the Union address Jan. 27. U.S. markets are already open to China, he said, so this would open China's markets to the United States.

Permanent normal trade relations would advance the cause of peace in Asia and promote change in China, the president said. "It lies not only in our economic interest to grant China permanent normal trade relations status, We must do it to encourage China along the path of domestic reform, human rights, the rule of law and international cooperation," Clinton stated in a Jan. 24 letter to the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

U.S. and Chinese defense officials discussed a range of re- engagement issues here Jan. 25 and 26. Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Xiong led the talks.

"We agreed on a program to resume our military-to-military relationship, with a schedule of events for the coming year," Slocombe told reporters at the Pentagon Jan. 27. Pending approval by both nation's capitals, the proposed calendar will include high-level military and professional visits, some confidence-building measures and participation in multinational events.

One of the first contacts will be a visit to China in the coming months by Adm. Dennis Blair, commander, U.S. Pacific Command. U.S. and Chinese officials also plan to discuss how the military can help respond to humanitarian and natural disasters.

Officials also plan to resume discussions on military maritime arrangements. Cohen signed an agreement Jan. 19, 1998, designed to prevent accidents and confrontations between the U.S. and Chinese navies. Cohen later said the pact strengthened U.S.-Chinese military ties and established a mechanism for regular communication between the two nations' militaries.

Slocombe called the military-to-military ties part of a balanced and deliberate program to reopen contact. "We think it's appropriate to start gradually and make this a very prudent and deliberate process," he said.

Events also will be consistent with applicable legislation, such as the fiscal 2000 defense authorization act signed by Clinton in October, Slocombe noted. The act limits military exchanges with China to prevent the Chinese from gathering intelligence about defense technology. DoD officials reviewed each potential military-to-military activity against the standards of the statute, he said.

During the talks, Slocombe said, U.S. and Chinese officials also discussed global, regional, and bilateral issues, including the U.S. Asian-Pacific strategy. He said he stressed that the Asia-Pacific region is a critical U.S. interest and that the U.S. military presence there is a factor for regional security, essential to developing democracy, economic prosperity and increased respect for human rights.

"I made clear that we do not seek confrontation and we do not follow a policy of containment or domination," Slocombe said. "We have strong differences of view with the government of China on some important issues, and we will protect our interests, but we do not regard China as an enemy."

On Taiwan, Slocombe said, "We made it clear that we will continue our sale of defensive arms to Taiwan so as to provide, in the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, a sufficient defense capability." U.S. officials pointed out it is in everybody's interest to avoid a build-up of tensions during the election period in Taiwan and the subsequent formation of a government, he said.

U.S. officials also pointed out that the United States is developing a national missile defense system and has initiated talks with Russia to modify the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Chinese voiced opposition to U.S. national missile defense and indicated they would prefer to see the ABM Treaty unchanged, he said.

U.S. and Chinese officials share a strong common concern that tensions on the Korean Peninsula should be reduced and that North Korea should be nonnuclear. "The Chinese, in general, believe that the danger from the North Korean regime is less than we would characterize it as being, but they agree with the basic objective," Slocombe said.

Slocombe described the talks as fairly intense and cordial, despite real differences on some key issues. "I believe that Gen. Xiong Guangkai returns to China with a sense that the United States is committed to engagement with China and to cooperate where we have common approaches and interests and to work through our differences to resolve them where they exist."

During his visit here, Xiong also met with Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Jim Steinberg, deputy national security adviser; and State Department officials, members of Congress and a number of private groups.

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