(Statement to the press in Beijing, China)
We have just completed the fourth round of Defense Consultative Talks (DCTs). General Xiong Guangkai has been a gracious host and has led the Chinese side for each of the four DCTs. The DCTs have been important to the broadening of our military relationship, as part of our broader policy of engagement with China, designed to advance stability and prosperity.
On this trip, I also had fruitful discussions with General Chi Haotian, minister of National Defense, General Fu Quanyou, chief of the General Staff Department, and Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
During these talks, we covered a wide range of issues, both those on which we agree broadly -- like Korea -- and those where we have differences, like Taiwan and missile defense.
In the DCT we agreed upon a proposed plan for military to military exchanges for the coming year, subject to approval by our respective defense ministers. Under the proposals to be submitted -- in our case to the new administration -- next year's package of military exchanges would include high level military and professional visits, confidence building measures, and participation in multinational events. These activities will be conducted over the next year and are consistent with recent congressional legislation.
These contacts are an important tool for building confidence and understanding. We will continue to conduct our military exchanges at a pace geared to support our overall relationship.
During the talks yesterday and today, we had discussions on a variety of global, regional, and bilateral issues. They provided an opportunity to lay out the U.S. strategy in the Asia Pacific region, our view of U.S.-China relations, and of specific questions, such as Korea and non-proliferation.
I stressed that the Asia Pacific region is a critical U.S. interest, that our forward military presence and strong alliance relationships with Japan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, and Australia and our less formal security partnerships with other nations promote regional security. Security is essential for all countries to achieve prosperity, increased respect for human rights, rule of law, democracy, economic development and peace.
I made clear that our approach to China is based on engagement and building a constructive relationship, cooperating where we agree, working out problems by dialogue where we do not. The US will, I observed, defend its interests and those of our friends and allies in the region, but we do not seek confrontation with China or anyone else, and we do not follow a policy of containment.
We covered areas where we have continued sharp difference -- notably Taiwan and missile defense -- on which each of us stated our respective positions -- and areas where we have a considerable degree of common approach, notably in welcoming recent positive developments on the Korean peninsula and the recent agreements regarding Chinese policies on missile assistance. We also discussed transnational threats, such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, drug trafficking, and environmental degradation.
The Chinese side presented a briefing on their recently published White Paper on national defense. I commented that the U.S. welcomed the increased detail on Chinese defense policies and activities. But, echoing a point made by Secretary Cohen in his visit last July, I noted that references to the U.S. as a would-be hegemon in the Asia Pacific region were without foundation, and unhelpful to building a positive relationship.
The tone of the talks was cordial and professional. I noted that the new U.S. administration will have important decisions to make, and will be reviewing U.S. policies and establishing its priorities and directions, but I also observed that both candidates had, during the campaign, stated the importance of U.S.-China relations, while acknowledging real areas of difference. I think this Administration leaves U.S. China relations, both generally and in the military field, on a solid basis.