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U.S. Seeks Positive Military Relationship with China

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2010 – The United States seeks to maintain a positive, cooperative and comprehensive military relationship with China, senior Defense Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee today.

Wallace “Chip” Gregson, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security, acknowledged that the U.S. relationship with the largest nation in the world is complicated.

China is a partner in some respects, but a competitor in others, he explained, and the United States must engage constantly with China and seek to lessen uncertainty.

Uncertainty is the major stumbling block to Sino-American relations, Navy Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the committee.

Willard noted inconsistency between Chinese security statements and reality on the ground. China insists its military program is defensive only, and that it seeks a peaceful and harmonious environment in which its economy can grow and prosper, the admiral said. But the Chinese military has increased its capabilities in power projection and in asymmetric and conventional forces.

“That ambiguity that currently exists, and our attempts to reconcile that, are the security issue that we hope to tackle in a military-to-military dialogue with our [Chinese] counterparts,” Willard said.

Gregson said the department is particularly concerned about Chinese developments in the nuclear arena, cyberspace and space.

The military-to-military relationship with China is important and must be nourished, the admiral said, and a good dialogue between the United States and China will help spread security throughout Asia.

“It’s the reason for our emphasis to the Chinese on the need for continuity, some constancy in terms of that dialogue,” he said. “We think that it’s lagging behind the other engagements between our nation and the People's Republic of China.” The Defense Department must speed up its engagement to match corresponding U.S. efforts on the economic and political levels, he added.

The United States will maintain its presence in the Asia-Pacific region “as robustly as we have in the past as we continue to engage the Chinese in dialogue and, hopefully, foster an improved relationship and get to some of the ambiguities,” the admiral said.

Gregson said U.S. engagement with China and U.S. engagement with the region are inseparable.

“Our consistent and increased engagement with the region, our enhancements of our alliances and partnerships there -- not only in the East Asian region but, increasingly, through the Indian Ocean area -- will be essential to us shaping the environment that will allow us to also shape or develop cooperative, comprehensive relationships with the Chinese,” he said.

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Biographies:
Wallace “Chip” Gregson
Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard

Related Sites:
U.S. Pacific Command
State Department Background Note on China



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