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Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks Enroute to China

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 17, 2005
Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks Enroute to China

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  We are on our way to Beijing and you've been given roughly the schedule, the people we'll be meeting with.

 

            I'd be happy to respond to a few questions.

 

            PRESS:  Mr. Secretary, when you look at the relationship between the U.S. and China today, how would you describe it?  Is it one of friends, competitors, adversaries?  What should the relationship be and how will your vision help the relationship move from where it is today to where it should be?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Clearly we have political and economic interaction with them that's considerable.  We have a number of people from the economic side of our government there now, as I recall.  Condi Rice has been there recently; the President will be coming, I think, next month.  So we have a good deal of political and economic activity.

 

            The EP-3 incident in 2001 clearly set back the military-to-military relationship when our plane was brought down and the crew of that plane was made hostages for a period.  We've been incrementally taking some steps since.  If I were to characterize the overall relationship, it's one that China's an important country in the region.  It's a country that's increasingly important in the world.  Its economy's growing at a smart clip.  They're active worldwide.  It's a country that we would like to see engage the world as they are in a peaceful and constructive way.

 

            There's, I believe, somewhat of a tension between their desire to have their economy advance at the rate it’s advancing and some of their other policies from a political standpoint.

 

            For their economy to grow they're going to end up with a lot of people visiting their country, they're going to end up with a great deal of economic interaction with other nations, they're going to have to be using computers and access to information from a scientific standpoint.  All of those things suggest a more open society.  They have been and will be making choices as they go along, and obviously those of us in the United States and in other countries around the world, free countries, hope that the choices they make are choices towards a more open society, a more transparent society, but obviously it's up to the People's Republic of China to make its decisions as to how it wants to arrange itself from a political and economic and a security standpoint.

 

            But as they make those decisions, the rest of the world sees those decisions and makes judgments about it.  That's the way it works in the world.

 

            PRESS:  Mr. Secretary, given the importance of China, which you just mentioned, the question would seem obvious of why you haven't gone there earlier, given that you've been Secretary almost five years now.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I've been there a number of times.  My first visit was back in 1974 after the Vladivostok meetings.  I've been back a number of times in between over the past 30-plus years.

 

            I suspect had the EP-3, the aircraft incident not occurred I would have been there previously.  But I've had a number of other things going on in the world.  You may have noticed.

 

            PRESS:  Some people have said you've been, to some extent, the Pentagon leadership has been distracted from China by the War on Terrorism.  Is there anything to that?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  No, I wouldn't say that.  I've managed to get to a lot of other places.

 

            PRESS:  -- The lack of transparency in the military buildup is a concern.  Why are you concerned about that?  Why do you think the Chinese are building up their military [inaudible] no nation threatens them?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I think it will be interesting to visit with them about that, when we're there.  I made some remarks about this when I was in Singapore at the Shangri-La Conference.  We put out a report on what our intelligence community and Department of State, and Department of Defense believe about their investments.  I don't really know why they seem to be increasing their -- I think, it's interesting that other countries wonder why they would be increasing their defense effort at the pace they are and yet not acknowledging it.  That is as interesting as the fact that it's increasing at the pace it is.

 

            PRESS:  Why do you suspect?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don't know.

 

            PRESS:  You mentioned the EP-3 incident.  At this point, have military relations with China come full circle to basically where they were before the EP-3 incident?  What needs to be done for those relationships really to improve?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Obviously I would like to see them improve and I believe that they would.  The question is if we can find ways to do it that are comfortable from both nations' standpoints.  They're a sovereign nation, they've been around a long time, and they're going to have to make their own decisions about the kinds of military-to-military relationship they'd like to have.  One doesn't know what that is unless you interact with them and talk about it and propose things and respond to their proposals and see where it comes out.

 

            We've had some ship visits, as you know, and we've had -- Admiral Fallon was recently in China so we have a number of things where we -- we have meetings with them on maritime matters from time to time.

 

            PRESS:  Is there anything on their side that you would like to see them, that if they were to do that would signal to you that they're serious about coming closer at least on military and security matters?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I suppose.  I would rephrase it differently.  It's not so much what I would like to them do.  I'm interested in what they would like to do.  Just to recast it slightly.  It tells us about them.  Watching one's behavior is revealing.  The world then has a chance to see what it is, how they plan to chart their path and their course in the months and years ahead.  The world is interested in that.

 

            PRESS:  To what extent are you concerned that the rising [inaudible] modernization will eclipse or reduce U.S. influence in Asia?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I think that what I did when I spoke at the Singapore Conference, I laid out a perception of that.  It's not something that I think it makes any sense to try to recharacterize.  I've said that they are what they are.  It's a large country in population, it's a large country geographically, it's a country that has set itself on a path of economic growth which I think is a good thing from the standpoint of their people.  They set themselves on a path of attempting to deal with the world to a much greater extent than they have in previous decades.  They will make decisions with respect to their national security just like we do, and we then will know the direction they're going.  But it's not something that one can predict.  It will be interesting to see what course they chart.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible] economy, don't you think it's inevitable that their military will grow as well?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don't know.  A lot of countries, some countries calibrate their growth in their military to the growth in their GDP.  Most countries don't.  A number of countries in Europe, for example, their GDPs have grown and their military as a percentage has shrunk.

 

            When I came to Washington in the Kennedy and Eisenhower era, the United States was spending 10 percent of GDP on defense.  When I was Secretary of Defense 30 years ago we were spending five percent.  Today we're spending three percent.  So I don't know that your conclusion is necessarily correct.

 

            Straight-line projections tend to be wrong in life for a variety of reasons.

 

            PRESS:  Look at Asia.  It seems like there would be a lot of areas where China and the U.S. could cooperate quite closely.  You've got concerns about the Straits of Malacca and defense of the shipping lanes.  They're being disrupted and in some ways they're almost subsidizing China by securing those lines.  Islamic extremism coming out of Central Asia or Pakistan, potentially [inaudible] China as much as a threat to us.  Are these areas -- where on this trip you're interested to see if there are ways for more cooperation?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Certainly.  I'm sure that's why Condi Rice was over there recently.  It's why our economic experts are over there now and certainly we're looking for ways that we can cooperate to a greater extent in the War on Terror and other common interests.

 

            PRESS:  One of the places you're planning to visit in Beijing is Strategic Rocket Forces.  I'm wondering do you attach importance to the fact that a senior U.S. official will be visiting that?  Does that show a greater transparency or an attempt at transparency on the part of the Chinese?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don't know.  We'll see.  It will be interesting.  I just don't know.  It depends on what you see, I suppose.

 

            PRESS:  Mr. Secretary, what do you hope to walk away with from this meeting, how will you measure the effect of your visit?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  You've traveled with me before.  I'm not one who runs around looking for deliverables or signing agreements and that type of thing.  This is a relationship that's been going on, on a new basis since the Nixon Administration.  It's had its ups and downs.  And I'm happy to be going and appreciate their invitation and it will be part of a pattern of the United States of America's interaction with the People's Republic of China and our multifaceted relationship, political and economic and military, and life will go on.

 

            PRESS:  [Inaudible].  What are the concerns [inaudible] military buildup?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I guess time will tell.  Time will tell.  I don't know that I have anything to add to anything I said in Singapore.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible] earlier in the year with regard to securing shipping lanes and building up potential offensive capabilities towards Taiwan.  Are those things on your list of topics right now?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I'm inclined to bring up things with them first as opposed to with the press.  It's kind of an old-fashioned idiosyncrasy on my part.  I don't know where I got that.  It's obviously not in vogue, but --

 

            PRESS:  Are you disappointed [inaudible] to the so-called real Chinese Pentagon?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  No, I'm not disappointed or not disappointed.  I'm neither disappointed or not disappointed.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I guess our people did.  It's interesting, I find it all interesting.  They do what they do, we do what we do, and that's a decision on their part.  It tells something about them, so you learn something.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  That they prefer not to have people go there. 

 

            PRESS:  On North Korea, sir, what will you be talking to the Chinese on North Korea?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I would suspect very little.  Condi has been engaged with that and Richard Lawless has actually -- Where's Richard?  Is he around here?  He must have not liked something I said.  [Laughter].  Wait until I see him.

 

            He's been involved in those talks.  We obviously believe that the People's Republic of China's influence with North Korea is the greatest of the participants and are hopeful that they're able to use their influence constructively.

 

            PRESS:  On Japan, there's been recent tension between China and Japan over undersea resources, the issue of a submarine incursion.  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  What did I say, Richard?  Did I say something that [inaudible]?

 

            PRESS:  Can you talk about tension between China and Japan?  Is that something you're going to discuss with them?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Obviously it's something we would prefer didn't exist, and we're a close friend and ally of Japan, have been for many decades, and relations in the region are important to us, and one would hope that some of those things can get worked out in a constructive way over the weeks and months ahead.

 

            PRESS:  What about South Korea?  Do you expect difficult talks there in terms of trying to straighten out the alliance or realign the forces?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  No, I really don't.  My view of it is that the peninsula is what it is.  This is the 21st Century.  It's been what, 50-plus years since the war ended, and it is time for the Republic of Korea to assume a larger role and responsibility.  They are an enormously successful economic power in the world.  I don't know what number, tenth?  The biggest economy on the face of the earth.  And certainly they have the wherewithal to increase their defense budget, to assume a bigger responsibility.  And of course General LaPort's been working with them and Richard has to see that they assume greater and greater responsibility as we go forward, and that's a good thing I think.

 

            PRESS:  Overall, I'm just curious in sort of a broader context, there have been so many changes, the U.S. started developing close relations with Vietnam, India, Mongolia, countries that were really estranged from a while ago.  Meanwhile relations with South Korea, while still strong have been a little bit bumpy recently.  I mean how do you see this in a broader context as far as our role in the region?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I see Asia as an enormously important part of the world.  It is -- We're a Pacific country and the countries of Asia are Pacific countries.  We have historically a long relationship with many, if not most of them.  We've tried to be attentive to them and to see that they strengthen over the years.  Certainly some of them are very long-lasting and positive.  Others have been less so but are improving.  And if one looks at our rearrangements, our global posture in the world, clearly it reflects our conviction that the Pacific region is important and will continue to be important, probably increasingly important in the decades ahead.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  North Korea?

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It seems to me that in the last analysis if the six-party talks go forward and the discussions continue and the differences close over time, that one of the important aspects of it will be the requirement, the need for there to be an inspections regime that is sufficiently inclusive and complete and that it develops confidence on the part of the parties and the world that the agreement is being adhered to.  Whatever that agreement may be.

 

            That is something that is ahead of us.  So it seems to me that’s how that is fashioned and structured and what's agreed to ultimately and how it might work will be a test, a critical test.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, we don't know how it will work but obviously all of the people in the six-party -- all of the other people in the six-party talks recognize that if you're going to end up with an agreement you have to have some method of validating the fact that that agreement is being adhered to, so all of the countries would have an interest in that one would think.

 

            PRESS:  On another topic, one of your predecessors, Mel Laird, has an article in the current Foreign Affairs.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I haven't read it.

 

            PRESS:  Did he speak to you about it before he wrote it?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I talk to him from time-to-time.  I would not want to say whether he mentioned it precisely or not.  I know he has that interest.  I served in Congress with Mel and have known him for, since 1962.  A long time.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  [inaudible] my file out here to read.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I was President Ford's Chief of Staff when I went in there in 1974.  I did not go back as Secretary of Defense.

 

            PRESS:  [inaudible]?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Yeah, I was Chief of Staff at the time.  We were meeting in Vladivostok with Brezhnev, and Kissinger and I came down and -- You couldn't go straight from Vladivostok.  We had to go to Japan first before we could go into China.  I guess the relationships were imperfect.  I remember while we were in Japan there was an earthquake.

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