U.S. Broadens Military Contact With China
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BEIJING, July 13, 2000 Reciprocal port visits, consultative talks and high-level defense visits will highlight renewed U.S. military ties with China, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told about 200 students at the National Defense University here July 13.
The U.S. goal is to build a relationship based on dialogue, he said, and above all, one that enhances trust and security. "Our future is linked with Asia across the Pacific just as it is linked with Europe across the Atlantic," he said.
U.S. and Chinese defense officials started a direct "strategic dialogue" in January to develop military relations, according to Cohen. The talks in Washington re- established warming relations that the Chinese cut off after the accidental May 1999 bombing of their embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, during NATO's Operation Allied Force.
The U.S. and Chinese navies have since reciprocated port visits. U.S. and Chinese officials in January agreed to share information on humanitarian exercises and signed a naval accord to help avoid incidents at sea and to create a bilateral dialogue.
"American forces were proud to offer humanitarian assistance during the tragic earthquake in Hebei province," Cohen said, citing further examples of U.S.-China cooperation. "I became, I've been told, the first Western leader to visit your Air Defense Command Center for the Beijing region."
Defense talks are now scheduled in Beijing in December. A U.S. Navy ship will visit Qing Dao and Chinese navy ships will visit Hawaii and Seattle. Chinese officers will participate in the Asian Pacific Security Center in Hawaii. Cohen invited Chinese leaders to visit his successor next year.
The United States is working more closely with China on many areas of common interest, Cohen said. "We do not seek to 'contain' the most populous nation on earth," the secretary stressed to the students. "It is in our interest to cooperate with you."
The United States is deeply engaged in the Asian Pacific because of the region's strategic significance and its growing promise and prosperity, he said. Regional alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines are the foundation of U.S. regional engagement. U.S.-China cooperation, Cohen noted, helps to "bridge the bitter divide" between North and South Korea.
Differences of opinion and philosophy still exist between the United States and China, Cohen noted. The Chinese oppose a U.S. national missile defense system, for example. Cohen stressed that the proposed system is "designed to enhance peace and stability, not to threaten the security of any nation.
"The global spread of dangerous technologies -- chemical, nuclear and biological agents, and the missiles to deliver them -- constitutes a great and growing threat to all the nations of the world," he stressed. "That's why we must work to develop a system to defend against a limited ballistic missile attack from an irresponsible nation."
Cohen concluded with a Taoist quote attributed to Lao-tzu: "'What is firmly established cannot be uprooted. What is firmly grasped cannot slip away. It will be honored from generation to generation.'
"The United States believes -- and we hope China believes - - that working together we can firmly establish bonds that will not slip away -- bonds that will be honored from generation to generation to the benefit of both our nations, and indeed, the entire Asian-Pacific region," Cohen said.