Opening Statement by Secretary Robert Gates during Joint Press Conference with General Liang Guanglie from Beijing, China
“It is a pleasure to be back in Beijing. I’d like to thank the government and people of China for their gracious hospitality, which I’ve greatly enjoyed since my first visit almost 30 years ago. Much has changed since then.
“I also want to thank Gen. Liang for his hospitality. He and I had a great deal to discuss in our meetings earlier today. Both President Obama and President Hu have stressed that building a sustained and reliable relationship between our two militaries is an indispensible part of strengthening our two nations’ broader relationship -- a relationship that consists of deepening economic and cultural ties that touch the lives of virtually all our citizens.
“Among these are:
Improving maritime security;
Addressing the challenges posed by the spread of nuclear-, space-, cyber-, and missile technology;
Maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula by facilitating engagement between the two Koreas and towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula;
Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by continuing to work through the dual-track approach; and finally
Continuing to cooperate generally to diffuse global conflicts and tensions.
“I’ve stressed several times the importance of maintaining an ongoing military-to-military dialogue between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Mechanisms such as the Defense Consultative Talks, the Defense Policy Coordination Talks, and the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement can serve as important channels of communication in this regard.
“As Gen. Liang mentioned in his statement, we have agreed to pursue now seven priority areas of cooperation which were agreed to in October 2009. The general and I have also agreed to establish a working group that will develop a new framework for improving ties between the U.S. and Chinese military establishments. This group will meet several times during the coming year, and will present the framework during the 2011 Defense Consultative Talks. We also agreed to hold working group meetings under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement to discuss future operational safety and to build cooperation in the maritime domain.
“As Gen. Liang mentioned in his statement, we agreed to look into a number of joint military activities ranging from maritime search and rescue to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, and more. Not only will joint exercises improve certain key capabilities on both sides they also will lead to safer practices for our sea and air forces, and, over time, cultivate trust and lead to more opportunities for defense cooperation. We are in strong agreement. In order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent, and not subject to shifting political winds.
“Finally, I was pleased that Gen. Liang noted and said that the Chinese side would consider and study the beginning of a strategic security dialogue -- as part of a broader Strategic and Economic Dialogue -- that covers nuclear, missile defense, space, and cyber issues.
“Cultivating personal relationships can be an important part of improving understanding and cooperation. In that vein, Adm. Mullen and I will be pleased to welcome the Chief of the General Staff of the PLA to visit the United States in the first half of this year. And, of course, we are very much looking forward to President Hu’s state visit to Washington next week.
“The next two days will provide further opportunities for dialogue with my Chinese colleagues. They include:
Meetings later today with Vice President Xi, the Vice Chairmen of the Central Military Commission followed by an official banquet tonight;
Discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and with President Hu Jintao tomorrow; and
On Wednesday, a visit to the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps, the latter providing a key opportunity to advance our discussion of nuclear strategy.
“China and the United States are two of the world’s great powers and we both recognize the responsibilities and opportunities that status entails -- including showing the rest of the world the benefits that arise when great nations cooperate on matters of shared interests. Our two nations now have an extraordinary opportunity to define the relationship not by the obstacles that at times divide us, but by the opportunities that exist to foster greater cooperation and bring us closer together.”