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Joint Press Briefing with Secretary Panetta and Gen. Liang from the Pentagon

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and China’s Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie
May 07, 2012

                 SECRETARY LEON PANETTA:  Good afternoon.  It's my privilege and honor to welcome General Liang back to the Pentagon.  I'm pleased that in the course of his visit to the United States, General Liang has had the opportunity to visit a number of important military installations and receive some very thorough briefings and demonstrations from our military leaders.  We just finished a very productive meeting, our first since I became secretary of defense.  This continued the regular dialogue between military and political leaders from the United States and China.  

                Earlier this year, as you know, I was honored to be able to host Vice President Xi here at the Pentagon during his visit to the United States.  And I was pleased by the successful outcome of last week's fourth Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the second Strategic Security Dialogue at which Jim Miller, our acting undersecretary of defense for policy, led the department's delegation.  

                In my meeting with General Liang, I expressed my commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous mil-to-mil relationship with China.  And as a symbol of that, during our meeting General Liang invited me to visit China.  And I look forward to doing that within the next few months. 

                The United States and China are both Pacific powers, and our relationship is one of the most critical in the world.  We share many interests across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, from humanitarian assistance to concerns about weapons of mass destruction to terrorism to drug interdictions to trade to counterpiracy.  

                It's essential for our two nations to communicate effectively on a range of very challenging issues.  The United States and China have already worked together in a variety of areas.  We are expanding our cooperation, particularly in areas such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counterpiracy.  

                On counterpiracy, China has ably conducted maritime operations in the Gulf of Aden for more than three years, and these operations have helped to secure the free flow of commerce in vital sea lanes from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.   

                I thank General Liang for these efforts.   

                And later this year, in fact, the United States and Chinese ships will conduct a combined counterpiracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden.  

                On humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, I conveyed to the general my appreciation for China co-chairing a group dedicated to these efforts on behalf of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus.  

                On regional security challenges, we talked about North Korea and other areas, areas of mutual interest that require our continued cooperation and dialogue.  

                And on other issues, we discussed maritime areas, cyberspace, nuclear proliferation and missile defense as well.  

                As you all know, the United States Department of Defense recently released a new Defense Strategy, recognizing that no region is more important than the Asia-Pacific for our country's future peace and prosperity.  

                Our goal is to enhance our cooperation throughout the region, to enhance our cooperation with China so that we can promote peace and stability in that region.  

                We recognize that the United States and China will not always agree on every issue.  But we believe our military-to-military dialogue is critical to ensuring that we avoid dangerous misunderstandings and misperceptions that could lead to crisis.  A positive, cooperative, comprehensive United States-China relationship is absolutely essential to achieving a secure Asia-Pacific region and a more secure future for both of our nations.  

                General Liang, thank you for your leadership.  

                And now let me turn it over to you.  

                MINISTER LIANG GUANGLIE:  Friends from media, ladies and gentlemen, friends, good afternoon.  At the invitation of Secretary Panetta, I am leading the PLA [People’s Liberations Army] senior military delegation to visit the United States.  I am bringing the friendship from the Chinese people and the Chinese military.  

                The purpose of my visit this time is to implement the important agreement reached by President Hu Jintao and President Obama on developing the China-U.S. state-to-state and military-to-military relationship, to increase mutual understanding, to promote mutual trust and to raise the level of our state-to-state and military-to- military relationship, in particular our military relationship, and to ensure that this relationship can continue to develop in a sound and stable manner.  

                The United States -- the U.S. side attaches great importance to my visit this time.  In particular, Secretary Panetta has made considerable arrangement to my visit.  I arrived in United States in San Francisco on the afternoon of the 4th of May.  It's been three days, and I've been very glad during the past three days.  I was in a lot of military units and received many benefits and inspirations during my visit.  

                And here I would like to thank the U.S. side for its considerable arrangement and its warm hospitality.  This morning I had a meeting with Mr. Burns, the deputy secretary of state.  

                We had a(n) in-depth discussion and candid discussion on international security situation on the issues of our common interests.  And also we discussed our military and military relationship.  

                Just now I had a meeting with Secretary Panetta in an atmosphere of candidness and friendship.  We discussed many issues of common concerns by the two militaries, and the discussion has been deep.  We have reached many agreements during that meeting. 

                I can candidly share with the media that we have reached the following agreements.  

                The first agreement:  Both sides reaffirmed the China-U.S. military-to-military relationship as an essential component of bilateral relations, and have committed to building a sound, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship in accordance with President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama's shared vision for a China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.  

                Both sides reaffirmed the need for a continuous strategic communication and upheld that the two sides should enhance strategic mutual trust through dialogues and consultations and properly handle differences and sensitive issues.  The Chinese side invited U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to pay a visit to China at the second half of this year, at a time convenient for both sides.  And just now Secretary Panetta just released that news.  

                Both sides will continue to take advantage of the defense consultative talks, the defense policy coordination talks, and the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement and the defense telephone link as important channels to deepen understanding, expand consensus, improve mutual trust and reduce differences.  

                Both sides agreed that the two militaries should continue to strengthen pragmatic exchanges and cooperation at all levels and across all areas, with a view to expanding common interests.  Both sides agreed to enhance exchanges and cooperation with respect to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military environmental protection, medical, educational, cultural, sports, military archive and other fields. 

                Both sides acknowledge that the security situation in the Asia- Pacific region has been complicated and that cooperation in security areas is conducive to peace and stability of the region and serves each other's fundamental interests.  

                In response to the full range of security threats and challenges, the two militaries should further advance exchanges and cooperation on nontraditional security front.  Both sides agreed to conduct joint exercises on HADR [Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief] and counterpiracy this year.    

                Friends from the media, I will ensure you that the Chinese side will implement these agreements with our concrete actions.  We would like to work together with the U.S. friends and Secretary Panetta together to implement those agreements in our concrete actions.  

                At present, China-U.S. bilateral relationship is on a new starting line in history to build a new type of China-U.S. military relationship based on equality, cooperation and mutual benefit which is in accordance with the level of China-U.S. cooperative partnership.  

                It's the common responsibility of the defense departments of both countries and the common aspiration of global and regional countries.  

                China would like to work with the U.S. to seriously implement these important agreements reached by the two heads of state to respect each other's core interests and major concerns and to properly handle disagreements and differences pushing forward the sound and stable development of our mil-mil relationship through enhanced dialogue and communication and through deepened practical cooperation. 

                Thank you.  

                GEORGE LITTLE (Pentagon press secretary):  We have time for two questions.  I'll call on my Chinese counterpart to call on the first questioner.  

                STAFF:  (In Chinese.) 

                Q:  (Through interpreter.)  Hi.  My name is Fengfeng Wang. I'm from Xinhua News Agency.  I have two questions.  

                The first goes to Minister Liang.  General Liang, how do you comment on your visit this time to United States?  And how do you expect China-U.S. military-to-military relations to develop in the future?  

                And the second question goes to Secretary Panetta.  In recent two years, the United States has been reframing its Asia-Pacific strategy and strengthening its force posture in the West Pacific.  The U.S military frequently conduct the joint exercises with the -- with China's neighboring countries.  Critics say that the purpose of U.S. such actions is to try to contain China, and also that in recent Huangyan Island standoff incidents, Philippines' courage for its provocation to China comes from U.S. support in the back.  

                Secretary Panetta, how do you comment on these? 

                MIN. LIANG:  Now I would like to answer the first question, to comment my visit to U.S. this time.  

                My visit to United States this time, at the invitation of Secretary Panetta, is the first visit to the United States by a PRC [People’s Republic of China] defense minister in the past nine years, and also, it is the most important program in China-U.S. military-to-military engagement this year.  

                And we can see that both sides have attached great importance to this visit.  Ever since last year -- the United States launched its new round of arms sales to Taiwan -- we have postponed some of the engagement programs, including my visit to the United States and Secretary Panetta's visit to China.  And here, I'm visiting United States now, and I have invited Secretary Panetta to visit China later this year, which I would believe is a kind of turnover in the China- U.S. military relationship ever after the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.  

                This is one side of my assessment on my visit this time.  And the second aspect is that I'm glad that I can -- I will be able to exchange candidly the views with Secretary Panetta during the meeting. We have evaluated our exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries in the past years, and we have made -- we have appraised the achievements that we have made.  At the same time, we frankly discussed those issues in the areas where we have differences and disagreements.  

                I think it's fair to say that we have a rather objective assessment on the situation that the two militaries enjoy, and we, both of us, both sides, have remained a very calm and clear mind.  And both the attitudes from the both sides are quite positive in regard of the future development of this relationship.  

                The third aspect is that during our meetings we have -- both of us have mentioned one important issue, that is, how the two militaries should act to build a relationship that is in accordance with the level of our overall bilateral relationship.  As we know, discussions are under way now there is -- that to China and United States should build a new type of state-to-state relationship that is not in the stereotype that the two major powers are predestined to engage into confrontation or conflict. 

                Therefore, during the meeting, I proposed that the two militaries need to build a new type of relationship featuring equality, mutual benefit and cooperation.  And my proposal has received Secretary Panetta's response.  

                I believe these proposals can serve as the most important guidance or directions for the further development of our military-to- military relationship.  As long as the two militaries grasp these principles and guidelines, I believe in the future that we can raise the level of this relationship and strengthen and enhance our cooperation in all areas.  

                I believe my successful this time -- my visit this time would be a complete success, and I believe I can reach our expectations.  

                Thank you. 

                SEC. PANETTA:  With regards to the second part of your question, the United States and China are powers in the Pacific, and our goal is to establish a constructive relationship for the future.  The purpose of our strategy is to work with countries in that region to help develop their capabilities so that they can deal with the common challenges that both China and the United States face in that region.  

                And as I indicated to the general, my goal is to establish the same kind of constructive relationship with China so that both the United States and China can work together to make sure that we confront these common challenges and provide for the stability and safety of that region together.  

                MR. LITTLE:  Finally, Lita Baldor of the Associated Press.  

                Q:  Mr. Minister, Mr. Secretary, the United States has been very blunt about its perceived threat of cyberattacks from China.  What -- and including the takeaway of data from U.S. networks.  What specifically did you discuss about this threat and about this problem? And can you talk about what the United States and China can do to help improve coordination and cooperation regarding these cyberthreats? And Mr. Secretary, if you wanted to respond to that also.  

                But how concerned -- the other -- the other question is how concerned should the United States public be about this latest terrorist threat that was apparently thwarted by the administration?  

                What should we be taking away from this incident?  And can you tell us -- the perpetrator of this threat, can you say where this person is? Is this person in custody?  And what kind of a threat is this?  

                MIN. LIANG:  I'll respond to the first question.  I would like to do that.  

                Yes, we did talk about the cybersecurity issue in our meeting, during the meeting that I had with Secretary Panetta.  

                Apart from that, I actually talked upon this issue for many other occasions, including the Shangri-La Dialogue and the ADMM-Plus [ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting], during which occasion the journalists from United States ask about this question to me and former Secretary Gates.  And also, China and U.S. discussed deeply on this issue on the second round of Strategic Security Dialogue, which is under the framework of the fourth Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Beijing.  

                Before I release the contents of this related discussion, I would like to ask -- Miss -- to consider your proposition, I -- which I do -- I can hardly agree.  I can hardly agree with the proposition that the -- cyberattacks directed to the United States are directly coming from China. 

                And during the meetings, Secretary Panetta also agreed on my point that we cannot attribute all the cyberattacks to United States to China.  

                I would like to make the following points.  First is cyberattack is really important and been attached great importance with -- by all the nations of the world.  It concerns the securities in many areas, including the politics, the economy, the military and people's livelihood.  For example, you have a certain sum of deposit in the bank.  Well, this bank account was hacked by other people, and your money was stolen.  This concerns our personal life.  Therefore, I believe it is correct for all the nations to pay such great importance -- attentions to cybersecurity.  

                In our discussion we also talked about the possible ways that China and U.S. can jointly work on to try to find ways to strengthen the cybersecurity.  

                Although that we did not touch upon the details or technical issues on this -- in this regard.  We will leave that to experts. 

                To summarize, we -- in our meeting we do share the same position and the same view regarding cybersecurity.  Is my answer satisfying? (Laughter.)  

                Q:  I'm happy as long as you're satisfied.  

                SEC. PANETTA:  I never asked that -- (laughter).  

                Let me -- first of all, I appreciate the general's frankness in the discussion with regards to the cyber area.  

                Both the United States and China have developed advanced technology with regards to the cyber arena.  And it's true, as the general pointed out, that we agreed that obviously there are other countries, there are hackers, there are others that are involved in some of the attacks that both of our countries receive.  

                But because the United States and China have developed technological capabilities in this arena, it's extremely important that we work together to develop ways to avoid any miscalculation or misperception that could lead to crisis in this area.  And I appreciate the general's willingness to see if we can develop an approach to having exchanges in this arena in order to develop better cooperation when it comes to cyber. 

                With regards to the question on the act of terrorism that was evidently released today, I do not comment on specific classified operations, other than to say that the United States engages in a number of operations to go after al-Qaida and their militant allies, their terrorist allies who would try to attack the United States.    

                What -- what this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country.  And we will do everything necessary to keep America safe.  

                MR. LITTLE:  General Liang, Secretary Panetta, thank you.  Thank you all.  

                SEC. PANETTA:  Thank you.  

                MIN. LIANG:  (Inaudible.)

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