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DOD News Briefing with Under Secretary Flournoy from the Pentagon

Presenter: Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy
December 10, 2010

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Good afternoon.  Sorry to keep you waiting.  I just concluded a very fruitful day of meetings with General Ma, who’s the deputy chief of the PLA general staff and who came to Washington with his team for the 11th round of the U.S.-China Defense Consultative Talks.

                We had a very enjoyable dinner last night, hosted by the Chinese ambassador at his -- at his residence.  And I look forward to reciprocating tonight with a dinner for General Ma at the U.S. Capitol.

                This has been my second round of talks with General Ma, and I’m very pleased about the substance and the candor of our discussions.  This meeting was really part of a restart of the U.S.-China mil-to-mil relationship.  And it’s a very important one.  We discussed the relationship itself, which was an integral part of our positive, cooperative and comprehensive bilateral relationship with China. 

                We reaffirmed seven points of consensus that Secretary Gates and Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Xu achieved when General Xu was here in the United States last year.  And we discussed how to develop a more durable framework to shift the military-to-military relationship to a more sustained and reliable and continuous footing.

                We discussed the importance of maritime safety and of maintaining communication when incidents arise, and we agreed to continue making progress under what we call the MMCA, the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement.

                We also discussed avenues of cooperation across a broad range of regional security issues, including Africa, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.  And on the latter point, I highlighted China’s positive contributions in support of the P5-plus-1 process and in implementing U.N. sanctions against Iran.

                We also exchanged views on the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review and our Ballistic Missile Defense Review reports, both of which were published earlier this year.  And we discussed the importance of China continuing to make progress in improving its openness and transparency in defense matters.

                We also discussed the upcoming visit to China by Secretary Gates and state -- the state visit to the United States by President Hu.  And we believe that today’s meeting will help contribute to setting a positive tone and creating success in both of these events.

                So in sum, these were very positive discussions.  While I won’t say that we agreed on every issue, where we did differ, we had a very candid and frank and productive exchange of views.  These kinds of talks, I believe, contribute to improving the basis for a more cooperative relationship between our two countries and our two militaries over time.

                So with that, let me take your questions.  I know that Bryan --

                STAFF:  We’ll take three or four real quick, and get you out of here.  So let’s go ahead and get started.

                Luis, you got the first one.

                Q:  Ms. Flournoy, can we ask you what were some of those issues that -- where you did not agree and where you did have frank and candid discussions?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Well, I think that there are issues that we have worked on over time, such as maritime safety and security, where we both agree on the importance of safety and security.  We both agree on the importance of abiding by international law and norms.  And yet at times, there are incidents or activities that occur where we have a difference of perspective.  And we need an opportunity to air those views.  The MMCA offers that avenue at the sort of tactical and operational level.  And our talks today really allowed us to discuss these issues at a much more strategic level.

                STAFF:  Thom, go ahead, and then we’ll go to Justin.

                Q:  Thank you, Madam Secretary.  You mentioned North Korea was on the agenda.  Can you describe what you might have asked the Chinese to do to help resolve the tensions on the peninsula, and do you think they’re doing enough?  And do you leave today expecting them to do something specific to help?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Well, China has been a very important partner historically with regard to dealing with North Korea, particularly in periods where it has been -- shown provocative behavior.  So we discussed our common interest in peace and stability in the region.  We discussed the importance of North Korea ending its provocative behavior.  We discussed the importance of getting back to -- getting North Korea back on a path to demonstrating its willingness to denuclearize.

                And so it was a very productive “comparing of notes,” if you will, on the situation, recognizing that that dialogue will also be happening in other nonmilitary channels as well.

                Q:  You mentioned openness and transparency came up.  I wonder if the April 8th incident, where China temporarily took over 15 percent of the world’s Internet and routed traffic through their servers, I wonder if that came up at the time.  The Pentagon said they weren’t aware of any malicious intent associated with that.  Did you ask about that?  What was behind that?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Well, the openness and transparency we -- discussion we had today was really with regard to our strategic policies, our defense capabilities development, our broader defense doctrine and so forth. So it was -- it -- while we specifically discussed our Nuclear Posture Review, Ballistic Missile Defense Review and Space Posture Review on our side, and they shared with us some of their thinking on their strategy and capabilities development.  But we did not get specifically into that issue.

                STAFF:  We’ll take a couple more.  Let’s go Viola and down to Al.

                Q:  Secretary Flournoy, do you feel like you’ve moved the ball forward in -- if is the 11th round of talks like this?  The U.S. has been concerned for a long time about Chinese transparency.  Do you feel like you moved the ball on any of these issues, and what specifically?

                And in relation to transparency, did you give them any information to sort of demonstrate U.S. transparency, any information that they may not have had in the past, for example, or to persuade them on North Korea, for example?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  I do think we moved the ball forward.  And we have seen some gradual increases in China’s transparency and also in their candor with us on a variety of topics, particularly the -- I’m speaking here of the Chinese military.

                And, you know, we gave them the same NPR, BMDR, Space Posture Review briefings that we gave our closest allies. So part of what we were doing today was modeling transparency.  And they gave us a very interesting brief about their defense doctrine and their -- how they view the world and the role of their military in it.  So in that sense, I think it was a step forward and very -- very useful.

                I also feel that the tone of the discussions was more positive, more frank.  We are more able to discuss our differences in a very professional and substantive and, frankly, for me, enlightening way.  And that’s a step forward.
               
                STAFF:  Al, you’ve got the last one.

                Q     Madam Secretary, do you feel that -- did you get any commitment, let me say, from the Chinese on what you called establishing a durable framework for -- on a more sustained footing, so that we don’t have these breaks, these freezes in relations?  

                And also, could you give us some details about what concerns either were alleviated or that you still have regarding Chinese capability development?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Well, I think that we did agree to a framework of activities and dialogue for the coming year, including some high-level visits, like Secretary Gates’ visit next -- early next year.  And there’s a whole slate of other visits and exchanges that we hope will occur, as well as a number of dialogues that we will -- we hope will meet several times.

                We’re still fleshing out the details of that work plan, if you will.  But we heard the Chinese also embrace the idea of the value of having a steady and reliable and sustained dialogue.  And that was very good news to us.

                Q:  But it’s not a commitment.

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Well, I think there are certain things we’ve committed to.  We’re working through the calendar, and we still have to reach agreement on some of the more distant events in the future.

                Q:  And I’d asked about the capabilities you’re concerned about?

                MS. FLOURNOY:  You know, I think that we had some good discussions about, frankly, concerns that we have and concerns that they have, on both sides.  Again, I wouldn’t highlight specific capabilities as much as the need to be able to have fora where we can discuss -- better understand their capabilities development and, most importantly, their intent and how this fits into their strategy and their doctrine.

                STAFF:  Well, thank you.  I know it’s 6 p.m., and I thank you for staying around for tonight’s briefing.

                MS. FLOURNOY:  Thank you.