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Secretary Panetta Delivers Remarks to the Engineering Academy of Armored Forces in Beijing, China

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
September 19, 2012

            (UNKNOWN) (through translator):  Distinguished guests, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  As we know, in recent days, the world's attention has been drawn to Asia and to China, in particular, since Secretary Panetta has led a U.S. delegation, paid a visit to Japan, and now here in China. 

            Now that attention has been drawn to the Armored Engineering College, since Secretary Panetta has -- is now -- (inaudible) -- college.  It's our great honor to have Secretary Panetta here to deliver a speech to us, and then later on he will join together with our cadets.  

            Now let's give a warm round of big hand to Secretary Panetta, distinguished guests, and all the press (off mic). 

            (Applause.) 

            My cadets and I are equally looking forward to Secretary Panetta's speech, and I believe, as an experienced statesman and a famous expert in education, health and environment, the secretary's speech will surely provide different inspiration for us.  And it offers us an opportunity to communicate with Secretary Panetta to answer some of our concerns of hot issues -- hotspot issues. 

            Now let's welcome Secretary Panetta. 

            (Applause.) 

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA:  Thank you very much, General, for that kind introduction. 

            I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the entire leadership of the Engineering Academy of the PLA Armed Forces -- Armored Forces for the invitation to be able to be with you today.  This is a particular privilege for me, because many years ago now, I had the opportunity, when I was in college, to go through what was called the ROTC program, which was the training that I received in order to become an officer in the United States Army.  And coming to these schools always reminds me of that experience. 

            I also want to express my great appreciation to the Chinese people for their hospitality, for their kindness during my first trip to this country as the United States secretary of defense.  Over the course of my time here in Beijing, I've had a series of very positive, productive, and candid exchanges with your military and civilian leaders, including a session with Vice President Xi just this morning.  

            These interactions made it clear to me that the leaders of both of our countries are sincerely working towards the same goal:  to build a sustained and substantive United States-China defense relationship that supports the broader United States-China cooperative partnership. 

            This common effort is critical because, as two major powers, and as the world's two largest economies, a strong United States-China partnership will be essential for global security and prosperity in the 21st century. 

            For that reason, I am truly honored and delighted to speak to so many young PLA officers and cadets here today.  One day, one day, it will be your responsibility to help carry the United States-China relationship forward into the future. 

            A few months ago, I spoke to America's newest sailors and Marines at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The message I delivered to them is in many ways the same message that I want to give you today.  And that message is that one of the keys to peace in the Asia-Pacific region is to build an enduring foundation for military-to-military relations between the United States and China. 

            That message is based on the belief that our relationship between our two countries holds long-term promise for both of our countries, for the Asia-Pacific region, and for the world.  It is based on how much I have seen this relationship grow and transform in the course of my more than four decades in public service. 

            As a young man, one of my earliest jobs was in the United States government, in the administration of President Richard Nixon.  Forty years ago, 40 years ago last February, he traveled here to Beijing on an historic trip.  It was called "the week that changed the world," a week when our two countries cast aside decades of fear, of division, and estrangement in favor of engagement.  That trip set us on the course for the world we know today, a course where our two nations engage in a full range of diplomatic, economic, and security issues, and where our countries' common interests are growing.  

            Yet despite the distance -- the distance that we have traveled over the past 40 years, it is clear that this journey is not yet complete, particularly for our two militaries.  

            In the security realm, we often hear about suspicion and a lack of strategic trust instead of cooperation and engagement.  We see the spotlight oftentimes placed on our areas of disagreement instead of the areas where we share common security interests and where there is the potential for us to work together in defense for those common interests. 

            We must be clear-eyed about the challenges and difficulties that we face as two major powers.  We will not agree on every issue that comes before us, but we cannot let those disagreements and those challenges blind us to the great opportunities that exist.  If we work together, if we cooperate together, we can solve problems together.  

            To do that, we need to focus on building confidence and understanding between our two defense establishments, enhancing the frequency and quality of our dialogue and establishing patterns of practical cooperation. 

            In that spirit of building trust, let me share with you today my thoughts on the role that the United States military wants to play in the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century, and let me explain how I believe a constructive U.S.-China defense relationship complements that vision. 

            The broad United States strategy in the Asia-Pacific region is being driven by a simple reality:  We recognize that, in the 21st century, America's future security and prosperity will be linked to the security and prosperity for Asia and it will be linked more than in any other region on Earth.  

            This part of the world is home to many of the largest and most dynamic economies, and it is of growing importance to U.S. diplomats, to our economies, to our development interests, to our security interests.  There are also clear threats to regional security, from terrorism to the prospect of natural disasters, from maritime security to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from piracy to drug trafficking. 

            In response to all of these trends and concerns, in response to these challenges and opportunities, we are increasing our focus and investment in the Asia Pacific across the United States government.  We are doing so through expanded trade and economic ties, through increased diplomatic engagement, more development assistance, and through the rebalancing of our military forces, as well. 

            For the Department of Defense, that means that we are making this region a strategic priority as we begin to emerge from a decade of war.  

            At a time when we are being forced to make reductions in other areas of our defense budget in order to meet our fiscal responsibilities, we have decided that we are going to enhance our historic role and work with others to strengthen security in the Asia-Pacific region.  We will do so by increasing exercises and training with allies and partners and building new defense relationships with a whole range of countries in this region.  We are also developing new approaches to military presence and posture across the Asia-Pacific region.  We are making investments in the capabilities we need to operate and partner effectively.  

            As one example, we are enhancing our defense missile capabilities in this region.  Why?  Let me make clear that it's only aimed solely at one threat, the threat from North Korea.  It is no secret that the United States is deeply concerned about the threat of North Korean ballistic missiles striking our allies, striking the United States, striking our forward-deployed forces, striking our homeland.  

            Our cooperation with our allies in the region on ballistic missile defense is focused on a nation that has tested nuclear devices, continues to enrich uranium, and continues to test ballistic missiles.  These actions are a direct threat to the security of Asia and to the security of the United States.  These ballistic missile defense systems are designed to counter that threat and to foster greater peace and stability in this region. 

            Indeed, the entire purpose of our effort to focus on the Pacific is to help sustain the region's security and prosperity in the future.  It is in our interest, it is your interest to have an Asia-Pacific region that is prosperous and that is secure. 

            Our friends and partners throughout the region recognize that the United States military has a critical role to play in helping to achieve that goal in the 21st century because -- because of the profound role that we had in helping to foster security and prosperity in the 20th century.  

            For more than six decades, the United States military presence has underwritten the peace and stability of the Western Pacific.  America has fought wars and spilled precious blood to counter tyranny to support a system of rules and norms and institutions in Asia that eventually underpinned this region's transformation into an economic powerhouse that it represents today.  

            During my trips to the Asia-Pacific region over the past year, I've received very positive feedback from a number of countries that seek to enhance their own capabilities in order to strengthen this rules-based order in the future.  We've made it very clear that our engagement will continue to be guided by our adherence to a set of basic principles, including the following:  one, free and open commerce; two, a just international order that emphasizes the rights and responsibilities of nations and the fidelity to the rule of law; three, open access by all to the shared domains of sea and air and space and cyberspace; and, lastly, resolving disputes peacefully, without coercion or the use of force.  

            Many countries -- and many millions of people -- in this region have benefited from this rules-based order, and that includes China.  China's extraordinary economic growth and its rise as a major power made it a key stakeholder in this system.  Over the long term, I believe that it will benefit all of our nations and create opportunities for us to work together to achieve common objectives, particularly in areas like maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and peacekeeping.  

            But these opportunities won't come to pass unless both of our nations -- and both of our militaries -- work together to seize these opportunities.  That is why an essential element of our rebalancing effort is a constructive, bilateral relationship with China.  And that is why I will continue to make it a priority for the Department of Defense to expand our defense dialogues, our defense exchanges with China. 

            We are already seeing momentum building as a result of our renewed dialogue over the last year, not only in high-level visits, like General Liang's trip to the United States in May and my visit here this week, but in regular exchanges between our armed forces at all levels.

            Earlier this week, United States and Chinese ships participated in a joint counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.  This is an area of strategic and economic priority to both of our countries, and both the United States and China benefit from ensuring the free flow of commerce through the gulf.  This exercise not only gave our two navies the opportunity to increase their capacity to confront the threat of piracy; it gave our sailors the experience of working alongside one another toward a common objective.  These kinds of opportunities are invaluable when it comes to building trust between our two militaries.  

            Therefore, it was my privilege, on behalf of the United States, to invite China to participate in the RIMPAC 2014 exercises.  This is the world's largest multilateral naval exercise, held off the shores of Hawaii.  I am committed to identifying additional opportunities for Chinese participation in multilateral exercises.  

            The goal of this engagement is to build a military-to-military relationship that is healthy, that is stable, that's reliable, that's continuous, and that's transparent.  

            Our vision is for the type of substantive and sustained relationship that builds trust through cooperation.  It makes steady progress over time in identifying areas of common interest.  It builds channels of communication to improve understanding, manage disagreements effectively, and reduce the risk of miscalculation.  Our goal is to make sure that no dispute or misunderstanding escalates into unwanted tensions or conflict. 

            Ultimately, any strategy that aims to sustain the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region will be judged by whether we can achieve long-term progress in the United States-China relationship.   

            Now, there are some who see the United States' focus on the Pacific in a different way.  They see global security in terms of a zero-sum game, where China's rise will inevitably put it into conflict with the United States.  

            That view was rejected by President Hu and by President Obama.  It is not what our new defense strategy is all about.  

            Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China.  It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific.  It's about creating a new model in the relationship of our two Pacific powers.  It's about renewing and revitalizing our role in a part of the world that is rapidly becoming more critical to our economic, diplomatic, and security interests.  And as I've made clear, essential to all of these goals -- essential to these goals is a constructive military-to-military relationship with China.  

            Let me conclude by noting that, like many Americans, I admire the transformation that China has succeeded in accomplishing over the past decades.  I admire all of you for your willingness to serve your nation. 

            China's rise has brought millions out of poverty and helped to make the world a more prosperous place.  I believe that it can also make the world a more secure place.  If we work together -- if we work together to build an enduring foundation for military-to-military relations between the United States and China, we can achieve greater prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific region. 

            Forty years ago, bold leaders who recognized the mutual benefits of cooperation came together to seize these opportunities, and they changed the direction of history in the 20th century.  It is now up to us to help ensure that we continue to move in the same direction, towards more cooperation and towards a better and safer future for our children. 

            My parents were immigrants to the United States and came to America like millions of other immigrants.  And the reason they came is because they believed in the American dream of giving their children a better life.  They believed that they could give their children a better life.  That is not just the American dream.  It is China's dream, as well.  

            It will happen with a strong and constructive relationship between China and the United States.  A prosperous and secure Asia-Pacific region is, indeed, the fulfillment of that dream. 

            Thank you for having me here today. 

            (Applause.) 

            Q (through translator):  Thank you, Secretary, for letting me have the first chance to public question.  And during your speech, I noticed that you used the word "work together" most frequently.  And in recent years, we have seen that China-U.S. military cooperations are becoming more and more intensive.  And my question is, what are the areas that -- that you think we can do a better job? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  What part of -- I'm sorry.  What part of what? 

            Q (through translator):  What part of areas? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Oh, okay, yeah.  I believe there are several areas where we can work together.  First of all, as I suggested, I think having our senior leadership be able to interact with one another is -- is very effective at improving relations, because it gives the leaders of the military the opportunity to engage in candid and frank discussions about their concerns and their challenges.  There is nothing better to produce cooperation than the ability to openly communicate with one another on an equal basis.  So we have done that, and hopefully we will continue to do that. 

            Secondly, I do believe that expanding our exercises and having our militaries be able to exercise not just our navies, but our armies, and our air force, to be able to do that improves the capabilities of both the United States and China, gives us lessons about how we can improve in our operations, and gives us the opportunity to work together on military operations.  That, too, I think can be very helpful. 

            With regards to specific policy areas, I do believe that some of the -- some of the key areas in which we have common interests -- as Pacific powers, we're concerned about terrorism, we're concerned about nuclear proliferation, we're concerned about humanitarian relief, we're concerned about piracy, we're concerned about maritime rights.  Our ability to work together in each of these areas, confronting terrorism, something that concerns China -- it certainly concerns the United States.  We were attacked on 9/11 by terrorists.  The ability of our two nations to work together to confront terrorism is extremely important for the security of the future. 

            On the issue of humanitarian relief, every time there is a natural disaster, the ability of our two nations to work together to provide relief, I think, would be a tremendous symbol to the world of how two major powers can work together to help bring relief to human beings who are suffering from those disasters. 

            Thirdly, the ability to engage in efforts to limit piracy, to go after piracy, which impacts on our ships, impacts on our commerce, impacts on our trade.  What is going on now in the Gulf of Aden, what's going on off Somalia, is a wonderful example of how China and the United States and other countries are working together to confront piracy.  It's very effective, and it's doing a good job.  We need to continue that.

            I also think on peacekeeping, where China has been involved in some very important peacekeeping missions, one of the things we are asking is that China come to the United States, come to our war college, and be able to provide some lessons learned on peacekeeping.  These are not easy challenges.  These are major challenges that we confront.  The ability to exchange lessons learned from peacekeeping operations could be very effective.

            So there are a number of areas that I think can represent areas where both the United States and China can work together to show the world that we have developed a common approach to dealing with common concerns in the Asia-Pacific region. 

            Other questions?

            Q (through translator):  Dear Secretary Panetta, thank you for your wonderful speech.  During your speech, you mentioned that China-U.S. are committed to develop friendly and cooperative relations and, if we work together, we can resolve any problems.  But in recent years, we noticed that the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan has become one of the major obstacles that impede the development of China-U.S. relations.  Could you share your -- could you share with us your thoughts on that issue?  And do you think that that is contradictory to what you just said?  Thank you. 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Thank you.  Thank you very much for -- for the question.  And it's a -- it is an issue that has been raised in our discussions with senior leaders.

            Let me make clear that the United States has a one-China policy pursuant to the communiques and agreements that were reached and that we do not support an independent Taiwan. 

            At the same time, we encourage relations -- better relations between China and Taiwan so that they can peacefully resolve the issues that concern both sides.  And, frankly, we have been encouraged by recent developments between China and Taiwan that indicate that there is a willingness on both sides to engage in efforts to improve that relationship.  

            Obviously, we have commitments that go back in terms of assistance to Taiwan.  But our belief is that this assistance in some ways provides greater confidence and security on their part to be able to engage in those kinds of negotiations and discussions. 

            We are -- as I said -- are committed to a one-China policy.  Our goal is to try to improve the relationship between China and Taiwan in order to avoid any kind of conflict in the future.  And I believe that both countries are working in that direction. 

            Q (through translator):  Thank you. 

            Q (through translator):  Respected Secretary, thank you for your speech.  And during your speech, you also mentioned that both sides are looking forward to a stable, harmonious and prosperous Pacific Asia region.  And my question is that, during the Second World War, through close cooperations, China and the U.S. defeated the Japanese fascism.  And in recent -- in today's world, Japan's right-wing is constantly challenging the post-Second World War international political order.  Could you share with us your thoughts on that? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Thank you for that question.  Before I came to China, I visited Japan.  And I made very clear to the Japanese leaders that I met with that they have a responsibility to exercise leadership to assure that these issues are resolved peacefully. 

            The United States does not take a position with regards to these territorial disputes.  But we are concerned that these -- these kinds of disputes could lead to greater conflicts and to greater violence.  And, therefore, it is incumbent on both China and Japan to find ways to hopefully resolve these issues peacefully. 

            I understand the history here.  I understand the deep wounds that China suffered during World War II.  Nobody understands those wounds better than the United States, because the United States also suffered deep wounds during World War II.  

            But at the same time, we cannot live in the past.  We have to live in the future, the present and the future.  And for that reason, the United States, China, Japan have developed relationships that extend on the diplomatic front, the economic front, and, indeed, on the military front.  And my hope is that, in order to preserve that prosperity and security that we need in the Asia-Pacific region, that countries will work together to find ways to resolve these issues. 

            As I said, I understand the history.  I understand the pain.  I understand the depth of the wounds.  I understand how there are those who, because of their particular ideology, can play these issues up in one country or the other.  But responsible leadership in both countries has a duty to both countries to assure that we find ways to resolve these differences.  And I am confident, after my discussions with both the Japanese leadership, and particularly with the Chinese leadership, that both are concerned about finding ways to be able to resolve these issues. 

            Q (through translator):  Thank you. 

            Q (through translator):  Respected Secretary, thanks for your speech, and nice to meet you.  In your speech, you mentioned that the two militaries could conduct cooperations in the area of -- (inaudible) -- and as you know, the Chinese PLA is commissioned with disaster relief efforts during the major natural disasters.  My question is, does the U.S. -- (inaudible) -- shoulder the similar responsibility?  Thank you. 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Thank you very much for that question.  Yes, the -- the answer is, the United States does, indeed, provide relief when disasters strike.  In -- in developing our new defense strategy, obviously, we have to focus on -- on a number of areas in terms of our -- of our defense strategy, focusing on trying to develop greater agility, flexibility, trying to develop technological capabilities, focusing, obviously, on the Pacific and the Middle East, in terms of our power, investing in -- in areas such as space and unmanned systems, cyber. 

            But we also have a responsibility to protect our homeland.  And so when there are fires that -- as we've had -- we've had a series of very serious fires that took place in the United States -- I think it was something like 40 or 50 major fires that were going on -- the United States military responded.  We provided planes that dropped retardant on the fires and that worked with -- with officials in those states to try to develop an approach to controlling those fires. 

            When there is a flood or when a hurricane strikes, the United States military, the National Guard is called into service, and the military will respond, providing assistance, providing humanitarian relief, providing whatever help can be provided to those victims. 

            So we have a tremendous amount of experience with regards to disaster relief.  As a matter of fact, in -- in Pakistan, when there was flooding in Pakistan, our helicopters went in to provide relief to the victims of those floods.  When there was a -- when there have been serious snowfalls, we have also responded with relief, as well. 

            So that's why I -- I pointed out that I know what China has done.  You've had a number of disasters you've had to confront, as well.  I think this is an area of tremendous opportunity for both countries to work together to do the thing that I think is perhaps the greatest cause of all, to help our fellow human beings who are in trouble and who are suffering as a result of those disasters.  So I hope that we can develop that kind of opportunity for the future.  

            Thank you. 

            Q (through translator):  Thank you. 

            Q (through translator):  (off mic) what impressed you most, sir? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  I am a -- a big believer that in order to have an effective military you have to have good discipline and good order, and you have to have good leadership.  And the one thing that I am impressed by when I see the Chinese military is the level of discipline that I see within the force.  That's extremely important. 

            Any time you can ask some of the officers that are with me that had experience in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in battle, that if you are in battle the most important thing is having that discipline, to be able to respond to orders, to be able to do what you have to do in order to be able to achieve victory. 

            The second thing is having strong leadership.  Leadership is absolutely essential to the ability of a military to accomplish its mission.  That means good officers, good NCOs, noncommissioned enlisted, good sergeants, good people at the -- at every level who can take control of those that they are responsible for. 

            We -- we have been urging our command leadership -- (inaudible) -- and urged our military to exercise greater leadership within the ranks to make sure that we maintain discipline and good order.  And that is the key -- the key -- to being a strong military. 

            Look, just like China, the United States, we have -- we have wonderful weapons, we have great ships, we have great airplanes, we have great technology.  But none of that would be worth anything without good men and women in uniform who are willing to serve their country and do what they have to do in order to defend their country. 

            And so my impression is, from what I have seen, that we have had good discipline and order, and I think that is particularly important to an effective military. 

            Q (through translator):  Mr. Secretary, during your speech you mentioned that China and the U.S. will -- (inaudible) -- (cooperation ?).  And also that (cooperation ?) will be conducted among China, U.S. and other Asian countries.  So my question is, what kind of role do you think the U.S. is playing in the Asia-Pacific region?

            SEC. PANETTA:  I believe that China and the United States realize that it is in the interest of both countries to have an Asia-Pacific region that is prosperous and secure.            

            The United States is a Pacific nation.  I was born in a town in California called Monterey that borders on the Pacific Ocean.  My grandfather was a fisherman.  I have the Pacific in my blood.  

            And the United States is a -- is a nation that -- that believes that the Pacific is important to its ability to provide security and prosperity as well. 

            So we are tied to the Pacific.  We've been in -- in the Pacific for over 70 years, going back even before World War II.  But certainly since World War II we have had a presence and a responsibility to try to provide security in this region, and we have.  

            As a result of our efforts during World War II, we gave China the opportunity to be able to find a degree of security, to be able to move forward.  

            And the United States, as we look to the Pacific today, we see nations that are increasingly becoming more prosperous, they're engaging in economic development, they are improving their economies.  We are improving trade. 

            But as we do that, we have to also ensure that we provide security.  Every nation that I go to in the Pacific believes that it's important to work together to ensure that security. 

            The United States now is, you know, our interest is not in going around the world and establishing permanent bases.  Our goal is to try to work with countries to help them develop their capabilities at providing security.  

            And I think that's -- that is the goal of China as well, is to give them the capability to be able to provide their security. 

            If we do that, I think the Pacific region can become more prosperous and secure.

            The second thing that is very important is to try to ensure that we advance rules and international law and international order so that nations can work together to resolve their issues peacefully.  That means that all nations have to abide by those kinds of international rules. 

            That's the problem, frankly, we have with North Korea.  We have tried to engage with North Korea, we've tried to have a dialogue with North Korea, to try to resolve these issues.  

            But North Korea does not abide by international law.  North Korea is enriching uranium in violation of international rules.  They're engaging in inter -- intercontinental ballistic missiles that threaten other countries. 

            So there is no kind of standard or order or process that they are willing to abide that would help us be able to resolve these issues.  

            I think the responsibility of both China and the United States is to work with these other nations to develop a common set of rules and responsibilities so that ultimately we can find a forum and a format for countries to be able to come together to resolve these issues. 

            That's going to be important for the future if we are to have a Pacific region that is prosperous and secure for the future. 

            (UNKNOWN):  Thank you.

            SEC. PANETTA:  One more question?  Let me go to the back of the room. 

            Q:  (inaudible)

            SEC. PANETTA:  You've got -- you've got very good English -- (inaudible). 

            Q:  You mentioned -- you mentioned that (inaudible) United States and China are working hard to build a relationship of mutual security -- (inaudible) -- United States and China -- (inaudible) -- (relationship ?) and difference between this relationship and -- (inaudible) -- of security -- (inaudible) -- between Japan and the United States?  Thank you.

            SEC. PANETTA:  No, I appreciate that question. 

            The United States has security relationships with a number of nations around the world.  We have security relations with the NATO countries in -- in Europe in which we have obligations as a result of those security agreements.  We have security relations with Israel that involve certain obligations.  And the same thing is true with countries in the Pacific, including Japan.

            But that does not mean -- does not mean that the United States, for that reason, is not critical about certain positions that those countries may take.  

            Israel is a good example.  We have security obligations with Israel, but we've made clear to Israel that we do not believe that this is the right time for them to strike Iran, that we have an opportunity here to try to engage in a diplomatic effort to resolve our differences with Iran.           

            And the same thing is true with other countries.  And, frankly, the same thing is true with regards to Japan.  I've made very clear to Japanese leaders that they have a responsibility to resolve these issues peacefully.  And that's our position, and that we don't -- we are not going to take a position with regards to who is in the right when it comes to territorial disputes. 

            So I think the United States, a great power, has the ability, yes, to expand our security relationships with countries, but at the same time be able to say to those countries do what you have a responsibility to do as a country.  And in this instance it is important for Japan and China to work together to resolve their differences in order to provide better security for both countries and for this region.   

            Thank you very much. 

            (UNKNOWN):  Thank you. 

            (APPLAUSE)

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