U.S. Tries to Reassure China on Its Military Shift in Asia

Discussion in 'China' started by Galaxy, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. Galaxy

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    Aug 27, 2011
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    U.S. Tries to Reassure China on Its Military Shift in Asia

    DECEMBER 9, 2011

    BEIJING—The most senior U.S. defense official to visit China since the latest controversial U.S. arms sales to Taiwan said she sought to reassure Beijing that it wasn't the target of a U.S. strategic shift toward Asia, including the deployment of 2,500 Marines to Australia.

    Michèle Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy, said Thursday that China and the U.S. both wanted to move forward with their military relationship, and planned to re-schedule for next year joint antipiracy drills and other exchanges postponed by Beijing after the Taiwan arms sales were announced in September.

    But in a news briefing, she reported no progress over what she called the "critical issue" of the South China Sea, or over U.S. demands for greater transparency about China's military modernization program, including the development of an aircraft carrier and an antiship ballistic missile.

    Ms. Flournoy met Gen. Ma Xiaotian, the deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, on Wednesday for the 12th round of Defense Consultative Talks, which were begun in 1997 but have often been disrupted by differences over Taiwan and other issues.

    China's state-run Xinhua news agency, one of the main government mouthpieces, quoted Gen. Ma saying Wednesday that the "the fact that the consultations took place as scheduled shows that both countries are sincere about maintaining military exchanges."

    China's response to the latest Taiwan arms sales has been restrained compared with last year's, which prompted it to suspend military ties with the U.S. for 12 months. That has raised hopes among U.S. officials, who have for years been pushing for a more stable military relationship.

    However, the U.S. strategic pivot toward Asia—unveiled during President Barack Obama's visit to the region last month—has raised fresh concern in China, where the Defense Ministry denounced the move as a product of "Cold War thinking."

    Ms. Flournoy said Gen. Ma's delegation had asked her to explain the U.S. decision to deploy Marines to Darwin, Australia.

    "The question did come up and we assured Gen. Ma and his delegation that the U.S. does not seek to contain China: We do not view China as an adversary," she said. "These posture changes were first and foremost about strengthening our alliance with Australia."

    She confirmed that China had responded to the latest Taiwan arms sales by postponing this year's plans for a joint antipiracy drill, medical exchanges, as well visits to China by a U.S. army band and the head of the Pacific Command, Adm. Robert Willard.

    But she said that officials from the two sides planned to meet to re-schedule most of the postponed exchanges for next year, and to organize new ones, including high-level visits and joint exercises.

    "We do envision those activities going forward in 2012," she said. "I think there was support on both sides to moving forward with the [military-to-military] relationship and coming up with a meaningful engagement and exercise program for the coming year."

    She said she had reiterated the U.S. position on the South China Sea, where China's territorial claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei and where tensions have been rising over the course of this year.

    The U.S. says it doesn't take sides on the territorial disputes, but has an interest in protecting freedom of navigation, and reserves the right to continue its naval and aerial surveillance operations in the area, despite Chinese protests.

    China accuses the U.S. of encouraging claimant countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, to stand up to Beijing and push for resolving the territorial disputes through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, rather than bilaterally, as China prefers.

    "I don't think there was any new ground broken, but I think we had a good exchange of views," Ms. Flournoy said, adding that she had encouraged China to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on drawing up a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

    She said there had been no discussion of the Pentagon's recently unveiled Air Sea Battle doctrine—an coordinated air and naval defense strategy that many experts believe is aimed at China—but the two sides had "very candid discussions" on issues including North Korea, the Middle East and North Africa.

    "While we didn't agree on everything we discussed yesterday, we do agree that we have the common goal of preserving peace and stability in Asia now and in the future, and that we must cooperate on issues that will impact both of our countries," she said.

    U.S. Defense Official Seeks to Reassure China on Policy - WSJ.com

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