DoD News Briefing with Adm. Keating from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.
(Adm. Keating appears via videoconference from Hawaii)
BRYAN WHITMAN (spokesman, Department of Defense): Admiral Keating, this is Bryan Whitman in the briefing room.
Can you hear me okay?
ADM. KEATING: Aloha, Bryan. I've got you loud and clear and good morning -- or good afternoon, as the case may be.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Admiral Timothy Keating, who is commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and today he's coming to us from his headquarters at Camp Smith, Hawaii. I think Admiral Keating is familiar to all of you, but this is the first time I think we've had Admiral Keating with us as the PACOM commander. And today he has offered to spend a little bit of time with you to help you understand the type of U.S. military support that's being provided in Bangladesh. He was recently there on the ground and has a perspective, I think, is unequal to what we're able to see from so many miles away.
So with that, he's got a few remarks and observations, and then has agreed to take some of your questions.
So Admiral, again, thank you very much for being with us this afternoon, and let me turn it over to you.
ADM. KEATING: Thank you, Bryan, and I'm glad to have -- we're glad to have the opportunity. With me, Captain Jeff Alderson, our Public Affairs guru, and Command Sergeant Major -- Chief Master Sergeant Jim Roy, our senior enlisted advisor, who was with us.
As you mentioned, Bryan, we came through Bangladesh coming back from Thanksgiving in Iraq with Pacific Command forces, Mongolians, Tongans and soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, principally. Quite an interesting and heartwarming visit for us on Thursday. So we flew Thursday night, landed Friday morning early, the 23rd, in Bangladesh, and met with General Moean, the chief of Bangladesh's defense forces, and Ms. Geeta Pasi, who is our charge d'affairs. We don't have an ambassador there, so she's in charge. And Ms. Denise Rollins, who is the head of USAID.
So we had a series of meetings with them. They reiterated the need for assistance that could be provided in part by the United States military. We had moved earlier the USS Kearsarge; anticipating the Bangladesh request, we had moved the Kearsarge from the Central Command area of responsibility to the Bay of Bengal just south of Bangladesh, and on board Kearsarge is the 22nd MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit -- about 1,200 Marines; they have 20 helicopters and some landing craft.
We then, well, simultaneously moved Brigadier General Ron Bailey, United States Marine Corps, Marine One Star, out of Okinawa.
He was there for our meetings on Friday with Bangladesh officials and U.S. officials. Ron is running the operations ashore. And we also -- Admiral Willard from Pacific fleet gave us Rear Admiral Carol Pottenger. She is on Kearsarge.
So we've got a Marine one-star ashore, a Navy one-star afloat, around 1,200 sailors, another 1,200 Marines, 20 helicopters to provide relief operations in support of -- and that's the important word here -- in support of our USAID efforts to give the Bangladeshis whatever assistance they need. We have commenced helicopter operations. We are in our -- I get the time zone and days mixed. It's our third or fourth day of operations. We've flown several dozen relief sorties.
The needs right now are fairly simple, though they're still needs. Water is the overarching requirement. We're making water on the ships. We have -- the Air Force out of Hickam has flown several Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units -- ROWPUs. USAID has several of these. So there are several of these water-cleaning machines in theater, in Bangladesh. And that's what we're doing, moving water around. The Bangladeshis have identified distribution points. They tell us where the water is being made. We're bringing water in and then we're helping move the water out to the outlying areas affected by the storm.
We are attempting as best we can to make sure that the Bangladeshis understand it's their operation and we are in support. We will do nothing that they don't ask for, and when they are done with us, we will leave. And Kearsarge will go back to its Central Command responsibilities. We may -- we have the USS Tarawa, another big-deck amphib with a Marine Expeditionary Unit headed that way. Whether or not we'll have to use Tarawa or not, we'll see. We're prepared to if the need remains.
So, another area where we're helping is medical assistance. As most of you know, I'm sure, the big-deck amphibs bring with them a significant medical capability. We have about 75 medical personnel, from surgeons, corpsmen, anesthesiologists, nurses . We are bringing those folks ashore to supplement Bangladesh medical and foreign medical assistance. There are Pakistani medical personnel there, for example. And if folks are in sufficient need, we can bring them out to Kearsarge, where we have some significant hospital emergency surgery facilities. As yet, that has not been the case, is my understanding, but significant medical assistance is being provided as well, all at the direction of the Bangladeshis.
I think that's it, and I'd be happy to take your questions.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, Admiral, thank you for that overview. And we do have a few questions here, so let's start with Lita.
Q Admiral, it's Lolita Baldor with AP. If I can just change subjects on you for a second. Twice in the last week or so, Navy ships were not allowed entry into Hong Kong. I'm wondering if you could tell us, A) whether there's been any new or latest attempt to contact the Chinese and find out why this happened; and also, what does this tell you in terms of any long-term either relationship with China and any future efforts to dock there? Do you think this is going to be an ongoing problem?
ADM. KEATING: Thanks, Lita. I hope it's not an ongoing problem, and it shouldn't be an ongoing problem. This is a kind of a mundane, run of the mill -- I've been to Hong Kong, I don't know, I'll say six times in my career. I've been at it a long time, but I've been to Hong Kong a number of times. It's one of the great liberty ports in the world. It's a terrific opportunity for sailors, Marines -- if there are some on board and to spend time with their families.
You all are aware the Kitty Hawk was close to making her port call. Families had flown down from Japan, hundreds of them, I'm told, and at the last minute the Chinese denied the Kitty Hawk battle group -- the carrier and several of its escorts -- denied them permission to come into Hong Kong.
This is perplexing. It's not helpful. It is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country who understands its obligations of a responsible nation. There is little strategic benefits to it. There's a lot more downside than upside. So it's hard to characterize it in anything but a at least perplexing, if not troublesome, light.
I have had no conversation with any Chinese officials. We are in dialogue with OSD and State, and I've got a phone call in to our ambassador there. I've not yet been able to connect to Ambassador Randt.
So, perplexing, troublesome. No direct contact with the Chinese. Would certainly hope that this is not indicative of future repeated denials. We'd like to get into Hong Kong. We want to engage in even discourse. I'm hoping to go to China in January. As you know, Secretary Gates was just there a couple of weeks ago. He had a good visit. So this denial in the very late stages of port visit planning is -- came as a surprise and it's of some concern to us.
Q To follow up, have there been attempts to contact the Chinese that they have rebuffed, or have they just been not successful, or no real overt effort yet? Can you sort of describe what types of efforts are being made and if the Chinese are simply refusing to explain?
ADM. KEATING: I could not characterize it that way, Lilly. I have -- I personally as commander of Pacific Command have not initiated any phone call to Chinese military counterparts, and wouldn't, necessarily. It is more a State Department function, which is why I say I'm working to talk to Ambassador Randt. And I would leave that -- the high-level -- I'm not suggesting we would demarche, but activities such as that are much more in the State Department and Pentagon's line than they are ours here at Pacific Command. I've not spoken to our ambassador. I've got -- we're playing phone tag right now.
I don't think that there is anything calamitous about this or there would have been more direct back-and-forth action between officials from our government and their government. And as you know, the Chinese reversed themselves after the Kitty Hawk reversed itself, its battle group. The Chinese said: Oh, yeah, you know, the sun was in our eyes or something; you can come in. Well, it was too late by then.
So, no conversation between me and Chinese military officials, and there may be some at a little bit lower levels out of State or the Pentagon. I am unaware of any such effort.
MR. WHITMAN: Okay. Maybe go back to Bangladesh now. Let's go to Jeff.
Q General, Jeff with Stars and Stripes. Do you have any statistics about tons of relief supplies delivered to Bangladesh, or people that have received medical aid, or the number of reverse osmosis machines delivered to Bangladesh?
ADM. KEATING: Let me give you some data that I have here, Jeff, and I'll ask Jeff Alderson to, A, check my math, and give you a rundown, fax it to you or e-mail it to you.
Of note, the data I have is that 25 countries have pledged $4.1 billion in aid. China is one of those countries. United States. Saudi Arabia is the largest donor, with $100 million pledged. There are, of course, major international governmental organizations -- UNICEF, Red Cross, the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank. And as you know, Bangladesh is a very -- it's almost -- over 90 percent Muslim. And then there are 40,000 Bangladeshi policemen, soldiers and coast guardsmen in the effort, so the Bangladeshis are, of course, committing a significant element of their force. Muslim Aid, 150 staff, 700 volunteers.
As far as water provided, I am indicating that there are, as I said, several dozens of sorties already flown. Medical -- I mean, water and foodstuffs exceeding 50,000 pounds have been moved from various offshore or out-of-country locations in the country, and that is being distributed. I show the U.S. military is providing three of these ROWPU water purification units. One is in Bangladesh right now. Two others are in Thailand waiting for the Bangladeshis to tell us where they want them. So we forwarded three of them from Hickam and Guam total. One of them's in Bangladesh working now.
Two are coming in when the Bangladeshis request them.
Q If I could have a quick follow-up, the Marine --
MR. WHITMAN: Okay.
Q Okay. Okay. As a quick follow-up, the Marine brigadier general you mentioned -- can you say why you felt it was necessary to put a one-star general in charge of the efforts onshore?
ADM. KEATING: It was an appropriate level of expertise and savvy, if you will. We considered a range of personnel, and I was in discussions with Lieutenant General Ron Goodman here, as the head of Marine Forces Pacific, and also folks on the Joint Staff. And we thought because of the -- an aspect of this is the sensitivity of operations. There are folks in Bangladesh who are a little leery about U.S. military presence. And so by putting a relatively senior officer in there afloat and a senior officer ashore, Bailey ashore and Pottenger afloat, we felt comfortable that they would be able to handle not just the movement of military assistance and personnel but the diplomatic aspects of this situation as well. And we want to ask -- we asked them -- and Ron and Carol were inclined anyway -- to make sure that the Bangladeshis understood we are in support of them, we are in support of USAID's efforts, and we will do nothing that is not at the behest of Bangladesh.
MR. WHITMAN: (Off mike.)
Q Admiral, this is Al Pessin from Voice of America. Can you expand on what you were just talking about? Were the Bangladeshis at first at all reluctant to seek U.S. assistance? When you were there, did anyone express concern to you about having U.S. military come in? I noticed that you made a point of explaining that you leave when you're finished. So have you encountered any actual concerns, or are you just being proactive on that?
ADM. KEATING: We've -- thanks, Al. We've encountered -- I have encountered no concerns personally.
The reception that our party received Friday morning was warm and, the best I could tell, genuine. The Bangladeshis are anxious to provide for more services to the people that were affected by the storm then they themselves can handle right now. There is this infusion of international aid, but there is a -- the roads down in the southern part of the country have been in some cases wiped clean. We need rotary wings. The Kearsarge has significant lift assets.
So I got no sense of stepping on toes; quite the contrary, we were warmly received. But it is clear, the vectors I've been given by the Pentagon and that we have passed on to those military personnel who are in our charge there, do not -- repeat -- do not stay any longer than absolutely necessary however long that is, and that will be a decision made in close coordination with General Moean and our embassy officials. But we were warmly received, and I got no sense that we were unwelcome, quite the contrary.
MR. WHITMAN: Let's go to Luis, and then over to --
Q Admiral, it's Luis Martinez of ABC. If I could follow up on Al's question, given that it did take a week from the time the cyclone hitting Bangladesh until the Bangladeshis requested American assistance -- military assistance, can we confer that there was an initial reluctance until your visit, potentially, maybe to reassure them about what U.S. military intentions were? Can I follow up on that?
ADM. KEATING: Yeah, and this is just my hunch, Luis. I wouldn't put it that way, and I didn't have that sense. We had a pretty good idea of how bad the storm affected southern Bangladesh. I mean, we -- we can see some things. And we were in conversation with the embassy and our defense attache, and the damage was assessed to be significant. You remember the death tolls hovered around a thousand and then kind of spiked a little bit, and then there were reports of maybe 10,000 fatalities. Those numbers are low, much lower now, still too much – but much lower.
So those were in the hours and in early days. I think it took a little while for the Bangladesh officials to get a comprehensive grasp of the damage.
While they, the military officials who were given a humanitarian assistance lead by the leaders of their government, while they were compiling this assessment, we were in conversation with our embassy there and USAID. The embassy and USAID had already begun to move, once again, in support of Bangladesh requests, aid into theater. Then it became apparent that distribution of water and food was going to be a challenge, and we, the United States military, were probably best equipped to assist in that particular aspect of the operation.
We had started moving Kearsarge prior to the official request from Bangladesh, to be sure, but we were in no way, shape or form trying to push Bangladesh into making a decision. We let them know that we could be able to respond in a little while. Kearsarge was over in the North Arabian Sea, so it took three or four days for Kearsarge to get there. As it happens, Kearsarge came, quote, "around the corner" and into the Bay of Bengal at about the exact same time that the Bangladesh request for aid was sent to our State Department. So the timing was fortuitous for us. We tried to lead turn a little bit, and it worked out that we received the request about the same time that I was flying in and the Kearsarge was showing up on sea.
Q Yeah. Admiral, Bill Gertz with the Washington Times. I'd like to follow up on the Kitty Hawk incident and how this will affect the mil-to-mil relationship. It seems -- I'm sure that some will characterize what happened as a mistake, but it seems pretty clear that it was an unfriendly action, and that raises the question about whether you will curtail or curb the military-to-military contacts with China, even though Hong Kong is technically not part of that.
I was also told that the Chinese have cut back on some of the military exchanges as a result of the president's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama. Are you planning to expect some kind of apology from the Chinese, and do you think that you will be curtailing the military exchange program as a result?
ADM. KEATING: Thanks, Bill. I doubt we'll receive an apology from the Chinese. I'm not expecting one. Wouldn't mind it, not to me but to the families of the sailors who committed a couple of bucks to get down to Hong Kong for Thanksgiving with the sailors off the Kitty Hawk. That is a distressing part of this.
As I mentioned a minute ago, I think we have a trip that we're planning, like 12 through 15 January. It'll be our -- my second visit to China in less than a year as the commander of Pacific Command. As you know, perhaps Fox Fallon, my predecessor, went a couple of times while he was there. So that means the door is open. The phone lines are open. We have not curtailed on our side any mil-to-mil engagement. We are pushing for increased exchange of personnel.
I mentioned Chief Roy earlier. He has had discussions with the Chinese military officials about senior enlisted academies and exchanges at the kind of senior noncom level.
We are looking to find ways to incorporate the Chinese in fairly fundamental military exercises, search and rescue exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises. We have invited them to several of these.
Their response has not been what we would like. But it is an open dialogue we have with these guys, and we're hopeful that in the months ahead, based on visits following on Secretary Gates -- and, you know, Chairman Mullen was just there. This is going to be a long process, in our view. We are cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to work our way around some of these aggravations, if you will. We hope none of the aggravations are from us. We think they're all from them.
As the Olympics loom larger and the summer of 2008 comes upon us, we are hopeful that the behavior of the Chinese will be more like that of other responsible countries. And we would be happy to engage with them in discussions that might clear up any confusion on their part as to what we mean by that.
Q Admiral, it's Jennifer Griffin with Fox News. I wondered if you could tell us how unusual is it for minesweepers to be -- that request a port of call from an advancing storm or protection from an advancing storm to be denied access to a port. Can you put that into terms that laymen would understand about how unusual that might be?
ADM. KEATING: It's very unusual, one, to kind of get caught, but that's the way weather at sea can be. I've found myself -- on aircraft carriers, anyway -- in water, wind, sea conditions that even on a big aircraft carrier will get your attention.
Those two minesweepers were engaged in an operation, not against China but out in international water, and a storm blew up and they needed to get into a place of refuge. And, you know, Hong Kong's nearby and that's a great place to go. So for the Chinese to have denied those two ships, in particular, small though they may be, that is a different kettle of fish for us and is, in ways, more disturbing, more perplexing than the denial for the Kitty Hawk's port visit request.
As it turns out, both the Patriot and Guardian remained unaffected. They suffered no damage. But this is a kind of an unwritten law among seamen that if someone is in need, regardless of genus, phylum or species, you let them come in; you give them safe harbor. Jimmy Buffett has songs about it, for crying out loud.
So this is an area that causes us a little more concern. And I think Gary Roughead had a couple words for you earlier. That is behavior that we do not consider consonant with a nation who advocates a peaceful rise and harmonious relations.
So it causes us -- it gives us concern.
MR. WHITMAN: Donna?
Q Thank you. This is Donna Miles from the American Forces Press Service, and I'd like to go back to Bangladesh for a minute, please. I'm curious, after your experience at Northern Command and going through all kinds of scenarios looking at domestic disasters, what kind of tools did you take away from that that's helping address the issue of Bangladesh?
ADM. KEATING: Hi, Donna. It's good to see you.
You're exactly right; we spent two and a half -- we enjoyed two and a half years in Colorado Springs with Northern Command, and the lessons there were of significant import to us in this situation.
A couple reasons. One, you know, the metaphor shooting ahead of the duck -- we -- when we learned that the storm was in the Bay of Bengal and heading north, and it was unmistakable, within a certain swath of coastline, that it was going to make landfall, and the damage would be significant, well in advance of the 15 November landfall, a week or so, we began to look at assets that might be of assistance if the host nation asked for them. And it is one of the benefits we enjoy, particularly with maritime forces, and air forces as well -- we can move them around and not have to ask anybody's permission.
And so that's when we got on the phone with Central Command and said: Hey -- in much more, not surprisingly, acronym-laden military jargon, we said: Can we borrow Kearsarge for a little while? And Fallon and his guys said: Sure. They have, most assuredly, work to do in the Central Command, but this was a pressing need.
The Air Force began to position heavy-lift aircraft here at Hickam to move those water-purification units and some other forms of aid, if requested.
So in advance of the storm, we began to look at assets that are at our disposal. We initiated the dialogue with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and over at State Department and with the embassy before the storm made landfall.
We kind of directed some of our information-gathering resources to try and assess the damage as quickly as we could, provide that information to our embassy. And as I explained, I think, earlier, to Lou's question, I believe, we got stuff moving, so not quite the same way as with Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico. But as the storm was ashore and clearing, we had a assets preparing to come in from behind and, as it turned out, well coordinated with the Bangladesh government in terms of timing.
So the events of Katrina and the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief that we learned at Northern Command were of significant value to us here.
Q Admiral, Meredith MacKenzie from Talk Radio News Service. Sort of to combine the two themes, you mentioned that there were a lot of countries helping out on the disaster relief. Is China one of those countries? Because you said that you have invited them to help in disaster relief. And if not, what have they said regarding future disaster relief cooperation with the U.S. military?
ADM. KEATING: Yeah, Meredith, I am relaying to you information that our kids have -- our kids -- our young professionals -- I'm not supposed to call them kids -- are young professionals have gathered, and of the countries providing financial aid, China is one of those listed as well as France, Germany. And again, Jeff Alderson can flow all this to you, but it's the visible spectrum of countries from Australia to the United States with China, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, U.K. amongst them. So China is, apparently, a donor of financial assistance.
Q -- ground or militarily are they participating in any way, or is it just financially?
ADM. KEATING: I am unaware of any Chinese military participation on the ground. We'll check that with our folks down range today, and if they are there, we'll let you know. I would suspect they are not, however. I think I would know, but you know, no one's told me they're not there so I'm assuming they're not there. We'll check, and if they are, we'll make sure you guys know.
But let me put it a different way. The only military forces of which I'm aware are U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines; Pakistan has 75 -- this says -- a 75-man army medical team. So there are other nations who have military personnel there, and we'll get you a list and send it back to Bryan today of those countries who have military personnel on the ground. It may include China, but I just don't know.
Q Hey, Admiral Keating, this is Courtney Kube from NBC News. Can you be a little bit more specific about the 50,000 pounds of aid? What's the breakdown of water versus food? Is the military delivering blankets? And then, also, the dozens of sorties, do you have a more specific number on that? And is the QSR sending any LCACs in?
ADM. KEATING: I'll get you a better breakdown, Courtney. Those are rough numbers, to be sure. It is my understanding that there's very little -- the emphasis is much more on water. That is the pressing need right now, and the Bangladeshis told me that when I was there. Food is not in such demand as is water. You know the geography -- very low-lying lands, and it's kind of a dry season there right now. And they get -- they -- for fresh water they rely on ponds, and the surge brought salt water in and salinated the ponds so they lost their drinking water. They lost their water for washing and cleansing, and additionally, they rely on these fresh water ponds to grow shrimp, which is what they eat -- it's their produce, product.
So the ponds are wiped out, and so water is the pressing -- the compelling need, and medical care. Food was third on the list.
So I'm sure our response, dictated by the Bangladeshis, is concentrate on water, get medical teams in here to provide assessments, and care if required, and then food, as you can, start moving around.
The pictures I have seen from our folks -- our combat camera guys are exclusively dealing with moving water and medical personnel. But I will ask Jeff Alderson to feed you as quickly as we can the numbers. I'm showing 47,100 pounds of relief supplies having been moved through completion of operations yesterday their time, so that's 47.1. I'm assuming most of that is water. I'm unaware of blankets. We'll check on that for you. And they are projecting in the next four days to move 160 tons of material.
So that is -- I'm reading between the lines here now, Courtney, but those are products, material that have been brought from outside the country to these distribution points, and as it accumulates at the distribution points under the direction of Bangladeshis, we will then use helicopter assets. I am unaware of LCACs having been used, but we'll confirm that. I know the Bangladeshis were pleased to learn of the capability we had on Kearsarge. But I -- we'll confirm for you whether or not they are actually being used.
So I owe you some numbers. Forty-seven thousand pounds of water; 160 tons of material would have to include things in addition to water. And we'll try and -- we will get you a more precise breakdown on that. And then LCAC operations, confirm whether they're being used. We'll get that back to you very quickly.
MR. WHITMAN: One more.
Q Admiral, it's Guy Raz from NPR. Looking ahead to your visit to China in January, I think you said the 8th to the 12th, can you give us a sense of what's on the agenda, what you're going to be talking with the Chinese about, what you're hoping to emphasize and what you're hoping to get out of those meetings?
ADM. KEATING: Guy, it's a week later -- a couple days later than that. And it's a request. I haven't yet been given permission to come. We'll see how that goes.
Yeah, I would be anxious to engage in discussions with appropriately senior folks on a couple of topics. One, obviously, Hong Kong port visit. Two, the development of weapons and their exercises in which we have seen them use these weapons. On my first visit to China, they professed to have no hegemonic intentions and, in their words, they only want to be able to protect those things that are theirs. Fair enough. The sum of the weapons we see them developing indicate to us a little more aggressive strategic goal, perhaps, than would be easily understood on our part if it is only to protect those things that are theirs.
Now, I can an make another case that because of their reliance on external sources for energy, in particular, they -- the Chinese -- want to guarantee the safe passage through international water, an understandable goal, and so they want to develop a navy that can go a little bit further than their first island chain.
So we'll engage with discussions about weapons development, training, blue-water navy capabilities, some air-to-air systems that we see them developing. So it's not going to be anything earth- shattering or startling. We'll go -- we'll continue -- our goal is to continue to develop this dialogue. The way we look at it, Guy, is if there are areas for misunderstanding between our countries -- and I think there are right now -- if we can reduce the -- that gap, the delta in those areas, reduce the potential for misunderstanding, then as that delta diminishes, as the gap closes, you have less room for confusion which could lead to confrontation, could lead to crisis.
Now, that's kind of a bumper sticker approach to it, but by working on this end to increase the dialogue on the day-to-day execution of military operations, and understanding their strategy, and developing the communications capabilities that we don't have right this second -- and this isn't just hotline, it's who do we call -- we reduce potential for confusion, which dramatically reduces the likelihood of conflict, in our perspective. And that's our goal. Peace and stability in the region. To get there, we reduce the chance for misunderstanding.
Q Follow up? Do we have time?
MR. WHITMAN: Quickly.
Q Admiral, it's Al Pessin again. I've been given permission to follow up on what Guy asked you about your coming possible trip to China. Are you planning to raise issues about China's space program? They've been showing off the photos from their satellite around the moon. How concerned are you about their growing space capabilities, and also about their space doctrine, which pretty much mirrors ours and sets up potential confrontation in that area?
ADM. KEATING: Yeah. We'll talk about it. We talked about it when we were there the last time, Al. It wasn't necessarily something that the Chinese volunteered. We kind of insinuated it into our conversation, the anti-satellite test in particular. And I expressed our view that it's -- I know it's a recurring theme here -- this isn't necessarily conduct indicative of a nation seeking a "peaceful rise." Those are China's words, not ours.
And we asked them about it. And the initial reply was, "Oh, it was just a scientific experiment." We pushed back on that a little bit and a little bit better dialogue ensued.
So, yes, sir, we -- to answer your question, we will ask the Chinese to share with us, should they so choose, their thoughts on space, weaponization of space, space debris, and issues similar to that. Their moon program, I'm kind of interested in how they're doing, military applications notwithstanding.
So, yeah. Yes, sir, we will talk about it. We have talked about it on a previous visit and we'll talk about it again.
Q Thank you.
MR. WHITMAN: Thank you for your time, sir.
Would you have any final comments you'd like to make before we end?
ADM. KEATING: I do have one, and it's a very serious topic, one that certainly I need to bring to the attention of the Washington press corps. This is my seventh joint assignment, and I am very much a disciple of the Goldwater-Nichols bill and the dramatic improvements it has made in our military's ability to fight and win.
However, this Saturday it all goes into a cocked hat when Navy will run roughshod over Army in Baltimore, Maryland. Goldwater-Nichols doesn't count this coming Saturday. And I'm sure you will all be on the Navy side for this very important engagement.
MR. WHITMAN: Thank you, sir. Appreciate your time. Thank you for being here. Go Army. (Laughter.)
ADM. KEATING: Thanks a lot, everybody.
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