China, U.S. Making Progress on Military Relations

By Jim Garamone

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets Chinese officers during a welcome ceremony in his honor Jan. 14 at the Bayi Building in Beijing.

Photo by Jim Garamone

BEIJING — The United States and China are making progress on security issues, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said today following meetings with senior Chinese leaders.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said there is a "positive momentum" in the security relationship.

"The U.S. seeks a constructive and stable military relationship with China," Myers said during a press roundtable at the American embassy here. "We will both benefit from expanding our military education exchanges, especially between our academies and war colleges."

The push forward comes after some rocky times. In April 2001, a Chinese F-8 fighter collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 patrolling in international airspace. The United States already had stopped military-to-military contacts with the Chinese so the then-new Bush administration could study the exchanges. The EP-3 managed to land on China’s Hainan Island. The Chinese pilot died in the crash.

Since then, military-to-military contacts have resumed, with the U.S. Pacific Command taking the lead. There was an exchange of ship visits last year and more are anticipated. Myers’ visit to the Chinese capital is viewed as another step to keep the momentum going in the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship.

Despite the stop-and-go nature of the relationship, Myers said, the momentum now is good on the strategic level. On Feb. 11-12, China will host a delegation led by Douglas Feith, defense undersecretary for policy, for defense consultative talks. A portion of those talks will focus on furthering military- to-military contacts.

Myers said Gen. Liang Guanglie, the Chinese chief of general staff, has accepted an invitation to visit Washington later this year. "The value of our increasing military-to-military relationship is to provide transparency both ways on our two militaries, and to avoid misunderstandings that might occur," Myers said.

The chairman said the better the American and Chinese militaries know each other, the less chance there will be for either side to "miscalculate or misunderstand" each other if there are incidents in the future.

While he said he appreciates the interaction at the senior level, Myers wants the military-to-military relationships to include younger service members, too. "Interaction can increase the knowledge of one another at the lower level, so that people grow up with a better understanding of either China or the United States," he said. "It’s always an advantage to be able to pick up a telephone and talk to somebody that you know fairly well. The relationship that I have with General Liang, the relationship that Defense Secretary (Donald H.) Rumsfeld has with his counterpart Gen. Cao (Gangchuan) is going to be helpful in that regard."

The Chinese press had many questions on Taiwan. Myers reiterated the long- standing American position. He said the United States subscribes to the One- China policy, and that reunification of Taiwan and China must be done peacefully. He said the United States opposes any unilateral action to change the status quo. "The U.S. strongly believes the situation can be resolved with diplomacy," he said.

Myers addressed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. He said China continues to build up its capability opposite Taiwan. "Our responsibility under the Taiwan Relations Act is to assist Taiwan and its ability to defend itself," he said. The United States does this to ensure there will be "no temptation to use force" to reunify the country, the chairman added.

Myers clearly was pleased with the meetings he held with Chinese leaders. In addition to Liang and Cao, he met with Jiang Zemin, chairman of the Central Military Commission and former president of China. He said the progress in security matters underscores the fact that the economic relationship between the United States and China has continued to grow.

"For sustained progress and prosperity you need a stable and secure environment," Myers said. "I think it’s natural from that that these two great countries would continue to look for progress in the security relationship."

Myers stressed that the United States is a Pacific nation. "We both have huge interests in the region, and it’s in both our interests that the region remain stable so economic progress can take place."

Myers said he and the Chinese leaders also discussed North Korea and the global war on terrorism. He said the consensus is that both China and the United States want a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. Both China and the United States are worried about North Korean claims of having nuclear weapons and of possessing plutonium processed from spent fuel rods. Myers said he told Chinese leaders the United States appreciates their leadership role in the Six-Party talks among the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

He said there is also consensus that international terrorism "is a scourge that all countries need to fight." He said the Chinese are disturbed, as is the United States, by the possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists.

Myers commented on his Jan. 14 tour of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. He was the first foreign leader allowed into the facility. The center controlled the Shen Zhou 5 flight that launched the first Chinese "taikonaut" into orbit.

"It was important to show appreciation for the significant accomplishment the Chinese space program made," Myers said. "Our delegation certainly appreciated the fact that our host would allow us to go out to the center to get some briefing and a presentation of the Shen Zhou 5 space flight. Obviously, this was a big step in the Chinese space program, and we congratulate them."

The chairman visited the Great Wall of China and left for Australia, where he will end his tour of the Pacific.