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Gates: New U.S.-China Hotline Represents ‘Step Forward’

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today lauded movement toward establishing a defense hotline between the United States and China. He called it “another step forward” in the two countries’ developing relationship.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with Chinese Lt. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng, director of military intelligence for the People’s Republic of China, in Singapore on June 2. The two were attending the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 2. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Gates, here for the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit, expressed optimism about the Chinese delegation leader’s assertion that the hotline issue will be settled this fall.

Lt. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng, director of military intelligence for the People’s Republic of China and the highest-level Chinese military official ever to attend this conference, said the hotline issue will be nailed down during defense meetings in the United States slated for September.

Gates called the concept of a hotline -- a secure landline provided through the “Defense Telephone Link” structure -- “just the next step forward” for the United States and China. “It is an important start,” he said.

“These hotlines are established principally to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculations and provide a direct linkage so if there were an incident or something was to happen, there could be direct contact and people could understand exactly what was going on,” he said. “So I see it as another step forward in the further development of the relationship.”

Gates told reporters he considered Quinsheng’s speech “very matter of fact.” In the speech, Quinsheng defended China’s military buildup as defensive posturing. The secretary said Quinsheng “dealt fairly directly with the issues before us.”

Gates said he welcomes further dialogue between the two countries. “I think there are further opportunities for understanding better some of the strategic intentions of the Chinese and some of their modernization programs,” he said “I think further dialogue will provide the opportunity for that.”

During his keynote address to defense and military leaders from 25 Asian nations, Gates recognized that the United States shares common interests with China on issues such as terrorism, counterproliferation and energy security.

“But we are concerned about the opaqueness of Beijing’s military spending and modernization programs.”

Gates avoided dwelling on that subject, one that dominated the Shangri-La Dialogue conference two years ago. Instead, he noted improvements in the U.S.-China relationship. “I believe there is reason to be optimistic, he said.

The secretary cited Marine Gen. Peter Pace’s last visit to China, during which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sat in the cockpit of a top-of-the-line Chinese fighter jet.

Gates also noted the “huge economic and trade relationship” between the two countries. “Indeed, I have been told that if just one American (business), Wal-Mart, were a country, it would be China’s eighth-largest trading partner,” he said.

He expressed confidence that this economic bilateral relationship will continue to improve through efforts such as the second meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, which wrapped up last week in Washington.

“As we gain experience in dealing with each other, relationships can be forged that will build trust over time,” he said.

Gates talked with reporters following bilaterial meetings with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony and South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo.

Gates and Kim reported after their meeting that they had constructive talks about topics including the relocation of U.S. bases south of Seoul and the transition of wartime operational control of South Korea’s forces to its own control. The United States and South Korea have agreed to transition U.S. command over these forces in April 2012.

Gates said he also asked South Korea to reconsider its timetable for withdraw from Afghanistan.

Today’s meeting helped resolve several difficult issues “and paves the way for future, even closer cooperation,” he said.

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Shangri-La Dialogue

Related Articles:
China Issues Critical, But Won’t Dominate Asia Security Summit



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