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U.S. Expanding Military Exchanges With China

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 1995 – U.S. service members can expect to see more of China's military in the year ahead, according to Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Peaceful relations between the United States and China are vital to peace in the next century, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs said during a speech at the Asia Society here Dec. 12. China's rapid growth has raised its regional and global importance. It will soon become the world's second largest economy, he said.


China's defense spending has grown by 40 percent in real terms in the last five years, Nye said, but the military does not yet have the power-projection capabilities that would pose a threat.


Nye said he expects U.S. military relations with China during the next year to include high-level visits, working-level exchanges, confidence-building measures, defense conversion and participation in military multinational activities.


China's defense minister is scheduling a visit to the United States during the first half of 1996. "Later in the year, we might consider counterpart visits by several of the U.S. and Chinese military service chiefs," he said.


Working-level exchanges are of long-term benefit, according to Nye. "As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. [Colin] Powell has said, if you get two generals together for a visit, you gain a few years of dividends, but if you get two majors together you reap the benefits for a few decades."


Plans call for expanding DoD's military educational exchanges between the national defense universities of both countries and exploring possibilities for further exchanges in such areas as military medicine, search and rescue operations and logistics.


As China's military capabilities increase, Nye said, it will probably operate farther from its shores. "Through an active dialogue now, we can ensure that our forces understand one another's procedures and rules of the road, and we can thereby avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations."


U.S. Navy ships will visit China and Chinese ships will visit Hawaii or the West Coast. "Ship visits are a superb means of familiarizing different navies with each other's operating procedures," Nye said. The two nations may also begin informal discussions on military maritime cooperative activities with a focus on avoiding accidents.


Defense conversion activities, primarily in the area of air traffic control cooperation, are also on the horizon, Nye said.


"Talks on this issue can have significant mutual benefits in terms of improved international air safety, shorter air commercial routes that could lead to direct flights between the United States and China, and large increases in the sales of U.S. manufactured commercial aircraft and air traffic control equipment to China," he said.


Members of China's military have been increasingly active in multinational military symposia and conferences on subjects like military medicine, operational law and safety in the Asian-Pacific region, Nye said. He said he expects the trend to continue.


According to Nye, U.S./China relations weathered some challenges recently. Last summer, China suspended talks with the United States on security, nonproliferation and human rights after Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui visited the United States in early June. China recalled its ambassador and delayed accepting a new U.S. ambassador.


At the same time, China conducted missile tests close to Taiwan and security concerns were also raised over China's nuclear missile dealings with Iran and Pakistan.


Prospects are now looking up, however, Nye said. After a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and the Chinese foreign minister in Brunei in August, China accepted the new U.S. ambassador and its ambassador returned to the United States. President Clinton met with China's president in New York in October. 

In November, Nye conducted the first high-level military visit to China since talks were interrupted in the summer.


"I came away from my visit guardedly optimistic about the prospects for increasing military ties in the short run," Nye said. "China's leaders appear to understand that the U.S. is pursuing a policy of engagement, not containment."


The United States is committed to a policy of engagement, Nye said. "China's cooperation is critical to progress in regional trouble spots and global security issues," he said. "China played a positive role in the North Korean nuclear framework agreement and in efforts to resolve the conflict in Cambodia ... it's cooperation is vital to international arms control, particularly nonproliferation agreements and efforts toward a comprehensive test ban."


The developing security relationship between the United States and China could be halted, however, by such issues as nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, stability in the Taiwan Strait and human rights, Nye said.


"We must therefore continue to work to ensure that short-term domestic and international politics and specific disagreements do not overwhelm our historic and long-term opportunity to realize our common interests in a peaceful and prosperous Asia," Nye said.

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