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Hagel, Chinese Defense Minister to Meet at Pentagon

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his top advisers will meet with China’s Minister of National Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan at the Pentagon Aug. 19, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today.

The two defense leaders will have an opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, a senior defense official said, including the U.S.-China relationship and the military-to-military relationship, bilateral issues, regional issues and functional issues like cyber.

After the talks, the official said he expects Hagel and Chang to hold a press conference. He also said that Hagel has been invited to visit China but the visit has not yet been scheduled.

Warren said Chang is meeting today in Hawaii with Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. This weekend, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., who commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, both headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., will host the general and his delegation.

The senior defense official said Chang’s interest in Northcom may have to do with the unique role it plays in issues like disaster relief and the civil-military partnership “as part of the discussion we’ve had with the [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] in recent years.”

The U.S. military has also been considering ways to expand cooperation with China’s military in areas like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The senior Chinese official’s upcoming visit to the Pentagon illustrates and will help to sustain the positive momentum that’s been achieved in the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship over the past 18 months, the senior defense official said.

It began, he added, when Xi Jingpin -- now China’s president -- visited the United States as China’s vice president as the guest of then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in January 2012.

“That set in motion a series of positive and sustained engagements between the two militaries that continues today,” the senior defense official said.

Last September, Panetta hosted former Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, and then Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited China in April, the official said.

Hagel’s Aug. 19 meeting with Chang won’t be his first interaction with the Chinese leader, the official said.

“They spoke via the defense telephone link back in April,” the senior defense official said, “so the visit that’s going on now sustains the regular set of interactions between the two leaders that reflects the positive nature of the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship.”

The United States, he added, “is looking for ways to sustain substantive dialog on a range of issues between our two militaries where we can expand opportunities for practical cooperation and at the same time expand and enhance mechanisms for managing our differences in a responsible way. The defense telephone is an example of that.”

If the pace of military-to-military cooperation appears to have accelerated recently, that may be due to influence from President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingpin, the official said.

“It does appear that this is an effort that is top-down,” he said. “So, for example, when the two presidents met at Sunnylands [in California in June], they talked about the importance of the military-to-military relationship.

“Indeed,” the defense official continued, “they had a consensus on the value of a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship as a central part of a stable and constructive bilateral relationship. So … it starts at the top.”

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