Mullen Cites Need to Improve Military-to-Military Ties with China
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
FORT BENNING, Ga., June 4, 2010 The nation’s top military officer today echoed recent remarks made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that China’s military is inhibiting progress in U.S.-China relations.
“From what I see, in the request to visit [with Chinese military leaders in China] that has been ongoing with Secretary of Defense Gates, I certainly agree with his assessment that it is [China’s] military that’s holding us back,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters in a visit with Army soldiers here.
Gates is in Asia this week to address some of his counterparts in the region. With the exception of China, all of the region’s military powers are in Singapore for the annual Shangri-la dialogue and conference.
The secretary told reporters traveling with him today that, “Nearly all of the aspects of the relationship between the United States and China are moving forward in a positive direction with the sole exception of the military-to-military relationship.”
Gates express his desire to engage Beijing and meet with military leaders there, but he was disinvited to the visit, which was tentatively planned for next week.
Both Gates and Mullen suggest that the rejected request was motivated because of the United States’ arms deal with Taiwan. Mullen said he was not surprised by China’s resistance, but stressed that relations with Taiwan will continue.
“The Taiwan arms sale is one we’re committed to and will continue to be committed too,” the admiral said. “It is in support of our national policy which is in support of the Taiwan Relations Act and it’s going to continue.”
However, Mullen acknowledged that he and Gates must continue to pursue better military-to-military relations with China in order to understand that nation’s military ambitions, he said.
“The criticality of the military-to-military relationship with the Chinese can’t be overstated,” the chairman said, noting his personal attempts to meet with Chinese military leaders. “We need to have that. It has gone through fits and starts.
“The whole idea of that engagement and relations is to understand us better and understand where we’re headed,” Mullen continued. “You have to ask the hard questions -- we don’t have to agree on everything, but [the relationship needs] to improve so that we can have a better understanding of what our priorities are in creating a sustained, secure environment in that part of the world.”