U.S. – China Defense Background
Secretary Gates will travel to China January 9-12 at the invitation of General Liang Guanglie, China's Minister of National Defense. He will meet with senior PRC leaders, including General Xu Caihou, Central Military Commission Vice Chairman, and will visit the PLA Second Artillery Corps headquarters, where he will meet with the Commander, General Jing Zhiyuan.
The U.S. looks to use this trip to confirm recent progress in advancing the defense component of the U.S. - China relationship, expand upon those areas where we can cooperate, and sustain a dialogue aimed at improving our mutual understanding and reducing the risk of miscalculation. The Secretary's visit to China will underscore the importance the United States places on building toward a sustained and reliable military-to-military relationship with China, which we view as an essential part of a U.S.-China relationship that is positive in tone, cooperative in nature, and comprehensive in scope.
U.S. Interests and Objectives
The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China that plays a constructive role on the world stage. A China that observes international norms, that plays by the common rules of the road, and that exercises its new-found national power responsibly in concert with the international community can be a significant force in tackling shared challenges.
In recent years, China has increased its involvement in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, deployed peacekeepers to UN missions, and has joined in deploying naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to work in concert with the international community to combat piracy. China is participating in the emerging Asian-Pacific regional architecture, and has been willing to work through multilateral institutions and international organizations, such as the United Nations, to address the proliferation threats emanating from both Iran and North Korea. These activities highlight the cooperative potential in U.S.-China relations.
However, China’s future remains uncertain and its rapid rise in political, economic, and military power has contributed to increased anxiety in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Moreover, China has provided only limited insight and transparency regarding its military capabilities. This underscores the importance of developing a deeper dialogue and a more durable military relationship between the United States and China, to improve mutual understanding and reduce suspicions.
The United States seeks a sustained and reliable military-to-military relationship with China, which is essential to our broader objective of building a political relationship in which China adheres to international rules and norms and contributes to regional and global problem solving.
The Department of Defense prioritizes exchanges that focus on building cooperative capacity, fostering institutional understanding, and developing common views on the international security environment and related security challenges, such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S.-China military-to-military relationship is based on the principles of mutual respect, mutual trust, reciprocity, mutual interest, continuous dialogue, and mutual risk reduction. The United States and China have agreed on seven priority areas for developing the military-to-military relationship:
- 1) Promoting high-level visits that build and maintain a continuous dialogue;
- 2) Enhancing cooperation in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR);
- 3) Deepening military medical cooperation;
- 4) Expanding Service-level exchanges;
- 5) Enhancing the program of mid-grade and junior officer exchanges;
- 6) Promoting culture and sports exchanges between the armed forces; and,
- 7) Invigorating existing diplomatic mechanisms to improve military maritime operational and tactical safety.
Continuous dialogue permits a respectful discussion of areas in which the two sides have differences. For example, the United States and China continue to have differences over the rights of coastal states in their exclusive economic zones, and the appropriate response to such differences. The Department of Defense will continue to use all available channels, in particular an invigorated Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) and Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT), to communicate the U.S. Government position on this and other matters to the PLA, while taking advantage of opportunities for the two sides to discuss practical ways to reduce the chances for misunderstanding and miscalculation between our armed forces. Additional opportunities to improve understanding exist in the area of policy and strategy for nuclear, missile defense, space, and cyber-security issues.
As President Obama has said, “[the U.S.-China] relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not pre-destined.” The Department of Defense, along with other elements of the U.S. Government, will continue to engage China to develop further those areas where cooperation is possible. The United States will also continue to encourage China to improve transparency and openness in its military affairs, including defense expenditure, strategies, plans, and intentions, to recognize the importance of integrating more firmly with a globalizing world, and to act in ways that support and strengthen international political, economic, and security systems.