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Updated: 14 Jan 2003

Background News

Thursday, July 06, 2000 - 2:27 p.m. EDT
Subject: Secretary of Defense Trip to China and Australia
Presenter: Attributable to a Senior Defense Official

Rear Adm. Quigley: All right, ladies and gentlemen, again, this is a backgrounder in preparation for Secretary Cohen's trip next Monday -- leaving next Monday -- for China and Australia, and this is your senior defense official that will be doing the backgrounder. Okay?

It's all yours, sir.

Senior Defense Official: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am the senior defense official. I'm relatively new to this job, in this particular region, although I have been in the Pentagon for many, many years -- several decades, actually -- and I do know some of you. I will not -- I mean, I'll be honest with you, I will not try to fake any of the information. I have several of my assistants here -- (names deleted) -- who, if necessary, I'll ask them if they have any details for questions you have, or I'll get back to you with answers if I can't answer your questions. But let me just quickly outline the trip, some of the logistics of it, and then I'll take your questions.

Secretary Cohen will leave next Monday, July 10th, and he arrives in the afternoon of July 11th in Beijing. The main meetings with military and government leaders will be held in Beijing on July 12th and 13th. On July 14th, which is a Friday, Secretary Cohen will travel to Shanghai, and then on the morning of the 15th, Saturday the 15th, he travels to Australia.

In China, the delegation, in addition to Secretary Cohen and the usual cast of policy characters, commander in chief of the Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair, will be part of the delegation, as will representatives from the State Department and the NSC staff.

Secretary Cohen will be visiting at the invitation of Minister of National Defense, General Chi. Secretary Cohen last visited Beijing in January of 1998. And just to sort of put all this in perspective, General Chi last visited the United States in December of 1996.

The purpose of the visit to China is three-fold: to promote our military-to-military relationship with China, as part of our overall bilateral relationship; to conduct high-level policy dialogue on a broad range of global, regional and bilateral issues; and thirdly, to improve our lines of communication between our two leaderships.

A significant amount of Secretary Cohen's time will be spent in consultations with Minister Chi. There's also plans to have meetings with other senior military leaders, including a vice chairman, General Zhang Wannian, and chief of General Staff, General Fu Quanyou.

Secretary Cohen in Beijing will give a speech at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University on July 13th. And there will be meetings with other government officials, and some of the schedules and all are still being worked out. But we certainly expect to have a meeting with President Jiang Zemin and also Vice President Hu Jintao and other officials.

In Shanghai, Secretary Cohen will meet with the mayor of Shanghai. And he will also visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange, where he will give a talk, a speech, followed by a reception there.

That in a brief outline is the schedule for the China portion of the trip. I was just asked a question on the side here; there are no plans, there is not scheduled, for Secretary Cohen to visit any military installations on his trip. All of the meetings will be in Beijing and Shanghai.

On July 15th, Secretary Cohen will travel to Australia, landing in Sydney on the eve of July 15th.

He will meet with his counterpart, Defense Minister John Moore, and other senior officials, including the foreign minister, Downer. Australia is a key ally and Australia serves as -- we call it a southern link of our Asia-Pacific alliance structure and plays a key role in ensuring peace and stability in the region.

Secretary Cohen while in Australia will have an opportunity to discuss bilateral and regional issues as well as global issues. He will, of course, provide a briefing on his just-concluded visit to China and talk about other regional issues, Indonesia and other issues. And also, he will receive briefings on Australia's ongoing defense review. Australia just recently announced the publication of its green paper.

Then Secretary Cohen will leave late on the afternoon of the 17th, Monday the 17th of July, and will land back here in Washington on the evening of July 17th, late in the evening.

That in a nutshell is sort of the outline and the purposes of the trip. So let me take your questions. Bob?

Q: Yes. Will the secretary in Beijing give the Chinese officials a detailed briefing on national missile defense, or any kind of briefing on that, including any results of this test Friday?

Senior Defense Official: We are, of course, certain that the national missile defense issue will be a topic of discussion. And of course Secretary Cohen will have available at that time as much as he knows about the results of the test that you all just talked about with Craig. And it is an issue. We know it's a matter of concern of the Chinese. Secretary Cohen will talk about it to try to dispel all of the fears and concerns that they have about this potential system. I mean, no decision has yet been reached, of course, on it. But it will be a topic of discussion, yes.

Q: What I was wondering was, you know, with the European allies and with the Russians and other countries, he's gone through to try to address the questions -- you've gone through these quite -- as I understand it, quite detailed briefings on exactly what we have in mind. Is he going to go through that kind of process with them or just --

Senior Defense Official: No, not the kind of detailed briefing that you suggest, Bob. But I'm sure that the overall topic, and all, will be discussed at some length. But we're not taking -- there will not be experts on this subject who are going to give a fancy briefing on it, no.

Yes, sir?

Q: Does the fact that the secretary will not be taken to any Chinese military installations come as a disappointment to you?

Senior Defense Official: No. No. This agenda of meetings, and all, has been worked out between the two governments, mainly by our attaché in Beijing. And no, this list of meetings that we expect to have, and all, is perfectly satisfactory and expected and appreciated.

Q: But the Chinese seem to be reluctant to show the Americans, visiting American military officers, public officials, any military installations or --

Senior Defense Official: I don't believe that was the purpose of this trip, and so no, there are no disappointments in that regard.

Yes, sir?

Q: Is this a sign that military-to-military relations are now back to the level they were before Belgrade bombing?

Senior Defense Official: Yes --

Q: Or is this something that China will continue to hold over you in some sort of way?

Senior Defense Official: The latter part, I can't really say. Your guess is as good as mine.

But, yes, this is an indication that our -- we're back to a full military-to-military relationship. Admiral Blair visited China in late February, first of March. There have been other visitors, well, from the State Department, of course, and General McCaffrey was out there this spring. But certainly, Secretary Cohen's visit there is a resumption of our military-to-military relationship.


Q: Two questions. The first one, if Secretary Cohen is going to visit Wang Daohan in Shanghai, who is responsible for the cross-strait relations? And the second question is, we know before -- (inaudible) -- meeting, U.S. has a lot of officials visit Beijing or tried to express your concern or your viewpoint about cross-strait issue. So what will be the message will Secretary Cohen bring to Beijing leaders?

Senior Defense Official: Well, the answer to your first question is, yes, we expect a meeting with Wang Daohan on -- and that's all I'll say at this point.

We -- yes, we expect a meeting with him.

And secondly, yes, the Chinese are having their high-level summer talks. Sometime the end of July, I believe, it starts. Secretary Albright has just been to Beijing. And Secretary Cohen is not going there trying to influence the discussions at those meetings, but certainly his visit to Beijing is a positive development in our relationship.

Q: What would be the purpose of his meeting with Mr. Wang, Wang Daohan, in Shanghai, whose sole responsibility is handling cross- strait issues, really?

Senior Defense Official: Well, he will -- we think he will meet with him, and he certainly will express what has been U.S. policy throughout about the peaceful resolution, encouragement to have talks, and to try to ensure that there's no military conflict in the strait, but certainly not trying to play any other role than to reinforce U.S. policy.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Are there going to be extensive discussions on nonproliferation issues? And is he going to express concern about China?

Senior Defense Official: Yes, we -- nonproliferation certainly will be one of the topics on the global issues that will be discussed. And he will reiterate our concern and our policy regarding nonproliferation. I don't --

Q: Will he express any specific concerns, you know, related to some of these articles that have come out about China selling -- (off mike)?

Senior Defense Official: I really don't want to comment on specifics, because I don't want to force Secretary Cohen's -- you know, what his words are or anything, but yes, that will be a topic of -- I'm sorry. I can't get any more specific on --

Q: You'd said that there's basically been a restoration of a full military-to-military relationship. Has there been any instances of either side sending observers to the exercises of the other, as I think that had happened a few times before the Belgrade incident?

Senior Defense Official: I don't think that has happened yet, but I know that that's one of the things that Admiral Blair has talked about and that we hope in the near future will occur. Yes. I mean, that's one of things that -- yes?

Q: A related question. Well, not really related.

There are some military exercises going on right now, I understand, in the vicinity of the strait, possibly, or, I think, a broad range of air defense and other things. How do you -- are these -- is this a normal sort of exercise? How do you assess that? There's something on the wires about it today.

Senior Defense Official: Is there a -- I'm not familiar with if we have an exercise, per se, going on there.

Senior Defense Official: They have routine training, complete --

Senior Defense Official: You're talking about Chinese exercises?

Q: Yes, I'm sorry. Chinese.

Senior Defense Official: I'm sorry.

Senior Defense Official: The training that they have going on along the coastal areas within China is always within routine bounds.

Senior Defense Official: Thank you.

Q: Are you going to discuss about military -- future military projects in the Korean Peninsula with --

Senior Defense Official: Well, certainly, the developments on the Korean peninsula will certainly be one of the regional topics. Your question as to future military -- I'm sure it'll be talked about in a general way. I'm not sure how much, you know, specifics they'll get into about the future, but certainly the Korean peninsula and how it relates to the regional stability. And Korea is, of course, one of the areas of mutual interest that the United States and China has, and it's an area of cooperation. So it will be talked about in a positive vein, I'm sure.

Q: Speaking of a positive vein, the Chinese are prepared to tell Mr. Cohen that in view of their rapprochement that missile defenses are probably less needed than they might have been in the past. What -- are you prepared to hear that, and what's the secretary's reaction likely to be?

Senior Defense Official: Well, I'm sure the secretary will listen to any proposal such as that. And I would not want to speculate what the secretary's reaction is. I'm sure he would just, you know, thank them for their views on that and then take it into account. But --

Q: Will there be any consideration -- will they --

Senior Defense Official: Well, let's not get too far out in front on the whole Korean peninsula. I mean, we're all encouraged by it, and you know the words "cautious optimism" and all, but let's not get too far out in front. There has not been a reduction of a military threat on the Korean peninsula yet.

Q: Will there be any discussion of upgrading air defense weapons on Taiwan from PAC-II to PAC-III and that sort of thing?

Senior Defense Official: Well, certainly Taiwan will be an issue of discussion, and I'm sure that the Chinese will express their concern about many of the different systems that are being proposed.

And Secretary Cohen will express our continuing interest and obligation with regard to -- and commitments with regard to Taiwan, as well.

Q: I'm a little unclear on whether -- is there a commitment by the United States to send additional Patriot missiles or, when PAC-3 is available, to send those, or is that just a matter of discussion?

Senior Defense Official: It's a matter of discussion. There's no commitment. Our only commitment is with regard to the Taiwan Relations Act and to provide for the self-defense of Taiwan. But nothing on specific weapons as you suggest.

Q: Is the United States satisfied that the Chinese are living up to commitments they have made on nonproliferation, specifically some of the commitments that they made to Secretary Cohen during the -- (inaudible)?

Senior Defense Official: Well, again, I don't want to get into the specifics of the topic, but, I mean, nonproliferation will be a topic of discussion.

Q: I mean, can you at least say whether the United States is concerned that China is not living up to commitments that it's made on proliferation? I mean, if it's an issue of discussion, I mean, there must be some concern.

Senior Defense Official: Well, that's true. I mean, I won't deny that, what you say, but I from this podium here, really, I don't want to, you know, say words or make statements that may or not be part of the discussion in Beijing. But it is an issue of concern that we have, and I think I just want to leave it at that for now.


Q: Can I ask a couple quick questions about Australia? Their defense review, does that look like it's including an increase in their defense budget? And will Secretary Cohen be talking about any foreign military sales to the country?

Senior Defense Official: I believe the green paper, I mean, it actually is -- I mean, Australia is facing the same kind of resource constraints and all as many other countries around the world, and they're reviewing their mission of their armed forces. And so it's --

I don't think -- it's not in the vein of being an expansion of their defense resources or force. But let me get back to you on that because I want to be sure.

I have upstairs in my office, you know -- a briefing they gave on this defense review. So I don't want to talk out of school, give you the wrong answer. So I'll take that and get back to you afterwards.

Q: And the second question was: Will Secretary Cohen be discussing any foreign military sales, like missiles and things like that?

Senior Defense Official: Not that I am aware of. That's not on the list of agenda items for -- in Australia.

Q: Back to Taiwan for a second. When I think we last heard about this, the U.S. had a commitment not to introduce beyond-visual- range air-to-air missiles, AMRAAMs, into Taiwan, unless somebody -- since China got them from somebody else basically. Wasn't that sort of it? There was a commitment to give AMRAAMs but not until -- not to actually deliver them?

Senior Defense Official: Well --

Senior Defense Official: The general policy is not to introduce a system until somebody --

Senior Defense Official: -- until somebody else does.

Senior Defense Official: That's a regional policy, in fact.

Q: A regional --

Senior Defense Official: Right. Right.

Q: -- (inaudible) -- in China.

Senior Defense Official: It actually came up in the context -- I think there was another country.

Q: Oh, okay. Now, has there been any movement on that? Has anyone introduced those anywhere in the region?

Senior Defense Official: Not to my knowledge, no.

Q: Okay. So that's --

Senior Defense Official: It hasn't changed. Right.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Well, what about --

Senior Defense Official: Go ahead.

Q: What about renewed FMS sales to Indonesia? Is that going to come up on the agenda with Australia?

Senior Defense Official: It probably -- yes -- will be talked about, I am sure, because Australia is very much involved in Indonesia. Right now, we have a moratorium on our military-to-military relationship with Indonesia. But recently, there have been discussions here in Washington on Capitol Hill with State Department and DoD talking on Capitol Hill, about where do we go from here on the military-to-military relationship with Indonesia.


Q: On Pakistan, the press reports that have specialty-steel exports, information and so forth sent by China to -- you know, China denies this. Are those press reports completely wrong or partly wrong or mostly wrong?

Senior Defense Official: I don't -- frankly, I don't want to comment on the specifics of that. I'd have to check or get back to you on that one. I don't want to comment.

Q: Can you get back to us on that?

Senior Defense Official: I will. I will. I'll find out what the right answer is. I don't want to give you any misinformation here.


Q: Before the dialogue with China was broken up last year, there were discussions on table top exercise in the humanitarian relief kind of situation. I'm wondering whether you expect any -- maybe not -- progress during this trip?

Senior Defense Official: We've already agreed -- I mean, that's in our current program to be resumed. And so humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, the sand table seminar program is in progress, the preparations for it, now.

Q: Maybe if you could describe some of the other things where -- I mean, since you're saying that this restores the defense relationship or the military cooperation with China, what is it that Secretary Cohen will be doing in terms of future contacts and activities with the Chinese military?

Senior Defense Official: Well, there's an invitation that could be offered while he's there; ship visits --

Q: To who? Do you mean Chi?

Senior Defense Official: Right now there is no planned visit of General Chi, but that's a possibility. Then there's also ship visits, there's -- well, other exchanges.

Senior Defense Official: We have further activities coming on in the year, including an exchange of ship visits, U.S. ships to Chinese ports and some Chinese ships to U.S. ports. We will have some -- a Chinese medical delegation come visit the United States. We will have, again, a periodic session that we call the Defense Consultative Talks, where we work out our program. And that takes us up through the end of the year.

Senior Defense Official: Right. That's scheduled for the month of December.

Although Lieutenant General Christman, Dan Christman, from West Point, just recently visited China, and I believe there may be a return visit by his counterpart, or something like that.

Q: And these are all things that are already agreed to, or that -- so will he be doing anything new on this trip besides --

Senior Defense Official: Well, the purpose of the trip is --

Q: -- I mean in terms of defense cooperation.

Senior Defense Official: Well, I mean, the fact that he is going there and visiting for the first time since January of 1998, and this is his first visit since several incidents last year, including the war in Kosovo and the accidental bombing -- and so it's a significant and important visit because it is the first one since those incidents, and it does mark a resumption of a full agenda of a number of military-to-military activities.

Q: Thank you.

Senior Defense Official: Thank you.


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