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Admiral Expects U.S.-China Military Talks to Resume Soon

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2009 – Plans are under way for the United States and China to take the first steps toward resuming their stalled military-to-military dialogue, possibly within the next couple months, the top U.S. officer in the region told reporters today.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, expressed optimism that an upcoming Military Maritime Consultative Agreement session -- agreed to during Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy's visit to Beijing in June for the Defense Consultative Talks -- will signal the start of more extensive military relations between the two countries.

After participating yesterday in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue here, Keating said he's impressed by across-the-board interest in advancing that relationship.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hosted the two days of talks that continue today, called them "the beginning of an unprecedented effort to lay the foundation for a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-Chinese relationship for the 21st century."

Keating noted agreement by both the U.S. and Chinese delegations in resuming relations between the two countries' militaries as part of that broader effort.

The "unmistakable theme" of yesterday's talks was that both "want to continue to build upon the foundation of trust and mutual respect our two countries have, as manifest by military-to-military relations," he said.

Both President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have made it clear they want the relations to resume, Keating said, so now it's only a matter of getting arrangements in place. "We have agreed to do it," he told reporters. "We are just working on the final details."

Plans are under way for the Military Marine Consultative Agreement session Keating said he expects to take place "in the very near future," probably in Beijing. Pinned down by reporters, he expressed hope the meeting occur "within a month or two."

After that session, Keating said, he looks forward to other opportunities for Chinese military officers to come to U.S. Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith, Hawaii, or to the Pentagon, and for senior U.S. military leaders to visit their counterparts in Beijing.

Keating said he’d like to see the military relationship extend to include humanitarian and disaster relief exercises, personnel exchanges, information-sharing on counterterrorism techniques and procedures and observation of bilateral and multilateral exercises.

A Chinese official noted during yesterday’s session that “no country can develop sound policy if it tries to do so in isolation,” Keating told reporters.

“I think that’s a great way of expressing the sense all of us feel – the desire to get back together again and discuss exercises, discuss personnel exchanges, discuss responses to humanitarian assistance crises and the provision of disaster relief,” he said.

Meanwhile, Keating called the Chinese military’s plans to establish a new Web site Aug. 1 a positive step forward in promoting transparency and a better understanding of China’s military intentions.

Mutual understanding of each other’s intentions, along with a foundation of trust, are “critical to enhancing peace and stability all across Asia and the Pacific region,” he said.

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Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating

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U.S. Pacific Command

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