Not again: Pentagon urges China to keep military relations open
Published: September 27, 2011
WASHINGTON – Attempting to salvage one of the White House’s foreign policy goals toward China, Pentagon officials urged the People’s Liberation Army on Tuesday not to cancel or suspend military relations in protest over Washington’s decision to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16s.
“Our expectation, clearly, is that they will continue to maintain communication and cooperation,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little. “It’s essential for us to continue the dialogue with our Chinese military counterparts and transparency is the touchstone of that.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in New York on Monday. Following that meeting, The Associated Press reported, “[a] senior U.S. official said he was told by Chinese officials in other meetings that China would suspend, cancel or reschedule some military-to-military exchanges.”
Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, said at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he was unaware of any official notification from the Chinese.
“I think to the degree the military relationship suffers, as a result of this, it’s unfortunate,” Kirby said. “Certainly we desire to keep at it and to improve.”
Another freeze in military relations would be a clear setback after more than a year of intense diplomatic outreach by the Obama administration’s defense leaders. No other relationships between U.S. and Chinese government agencies go into a complete freeze over their differences and the top leadership of the U.S. military have tried to smooth communications, to avoid any “miscalculations” over defense issues, from the intention behind China’s military buildup to handling occasional ships bumping hulls in the South China Sea.
Mullen traveled to China this summer, following a January visit by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, specifically to make up for the last year’s freeze, following the previous arms sale to Taiwan.