23 April 2002
U.S. Pacific Chief Discusses Taiwan, Fight Against Terrorism
(Blair's April 18 press roundtable in Hong Kong) (4170)
A military conflict between China and Taiwan would be detrimental to
both sides and to the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, according to
Adm. Dennis C. Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command
In an April 18 press roundtable in Hong Kong, Blair warned that such a
conflict "would interfere with the economic development" of the
Asia-Pacific region and would result in "a great deal of destruction."
"There would be no solution from anybody's point of view," he said.
"Any sort of an emphasis on military actions in the Taiwan-China-U.S.
relationship is not the way to progress, it's not a way towards the
one-China and a peaceful resolution which is very much in the interest
of all of the parties," he continued.
Turning to the ongoing war on terrorism in the region, Blair stressed
the importance of being able to build a picture of the terrorist
network and activities in the region.
"I think in our work with both China and with Hong Kong the
intelligence exchanges are really the most significant part of that
right now, trying to build this picture of the terrorist network and
activities in this part of the world, and then taking specific action
in order to arrest and disrupt individuals, financial support,
logistic support and that sort of cooperation is going on both with
Hong Kong and with the main Chinese government in Beijing," the
Although Beijing has been involved in exchanging intelligence, Blair
said, this exchange is not yet on the scale of intelligence-sharing
taking place between the United States and other countries in the
"Right now when I compare our exchange of intelligence information in
Beijing as opposed to in other capitals, I think it needs to become
more detailed and more specific in Beijing," he said.
The intelligence from Beijing is "a little bit general," he said. In
contrast, "with other governments that we're operating with more
closely, like the Philippines or Singapore and Malaysia, it's very
detailed tactical information of the type you need to take action, and
I think we need to get to that level with Beijing."
The efforts of Philippine military forces with support and training
from the United States are registering some successes, Blair said,
citing the voluntary surrender of a group of Abu Sayyaf fighters.
Blair noted that the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines is "a
criminal terrorist group that has historic links with al Qaeda from
In waging the war on transnational terrorism, the United States is
trying to build "a full picture of the international terrorist network
that threatens us all," the admiral said.
In the Asia-Pacific region, he continued, the United States and its
allies are trying to find out the answers to such questions as: Who
are the members of organizations like Jemaah Islamiah? Where does
their money come from? How do they travel? Where do they get their
documents? Where do they get their weapons?
"We find that the way that we do this is by pooling our intelligence
resources and sitting down to very detailed exchanges of intelligence
analysts to do that, Blair said. "I think when we have all countries
doing that in a very effective way we will go a long way towards
winning this campaign."
Following is a transcript of Blair's April 18 press roundtable in Hong
UNITED STATES PACIFIC COMMAND
Adm. Dennis C. Blair
Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command
April 18, 2002
Adm. Blair: Let me just start with a few words on what I'm doing here.
I'm on a visit to two countries. I spent two or three days in the
Philippines earlier in the week where I talked with Philippine
officials and visited our troops who are supporting the Armed Forces
of the Philippines in their campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group in
the southern Philippines. I came here to Hong Kong yesterday and
participated in a meeting organized by the Center for Strategic and
International Studies that Dr. Kissinger chaired and that was
yesterday afternoon. Today I'll be meeting with Mrs. Ip about the
relations between our forces in the Pacific Command and her, the
Discipline Forces here in Hong Kong.
This is my third visit to Hong Kong in the three years that I've been
the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command. This is a favorite
place to visit not only for me personally, I first came here about 30
years ago as a young officer on a ship, but I know that our sailors
and airmen very much enjoy coming here to Hong Kong. It's a good
liberty port and the sailors on board the Kitty Hawk Battle Group are
also looking forward in their future to coming here for a port visit.
With that let me stop and see what questions are on your mind.
Question: Tell us how the Philippine visit went and what the next step
is in the war on terror in that quarter of the globe. I've seen there
are about 300 troops that you've tasked to add to the force there. Can
you elaborate on that and tell us what progress you've made there?
Adm. Blair: Let me go back a little bit in time to put it in context.
The Abu Sayyaf Group is a criminal terrorist group that has historic
links with al Qaeda from its founding and with some continued contact.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines have been fighting against this
group in a very intensive phase for about the last seven or eight
Following September 11th President Arroyo of the Philippines visited
the United States and she and President Bush agreed that we would
cooperate militarily against the Abu Sayyaf Group, both because it is
a terrorist threat to the Philippines and potentially to Americans and
other countries; and also there are two American hostages, the Burnham
family, that are held by the Abu Sayyaf Group in addition to a
So about two months ago the United States sent a group of advisors to
work with the Philippine troops that are there in the Philippines and
they train Philippine troops, advise them, we provide intelligence
support, a certain amount of communications support, and in addition
we are discussing, and this was a subject of my recent visit, an
engineering team which will be working on projects which we need
militarily in order to improve the ability of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines and our advisors to move around the islands that will also
be of tremendous benefit to the people of Basilan Island by improving
roads and wells and work facilities. So we are working out with the
Philippines how we can do this.
The campaign in the southern Philippines as President Arroyo really
eloquently puts it, is a war on terrorism and a war on poverty and
you've got to be successful in both of those wars in order to
eliminate this terrorist group in that part of the world. I was very
encouraged by the visit there. Our people are doing well. The combined
efforts of the Philippine forces with our support is having some
A group of about 17 or 18 Abu Sayyaf Group fighters voluntarily
surrendered with their weapons the day before I arrived there. One of
the largest, in fact the largest action of that type in recent months.
So I think the efforts of the Philippines with our support will be
Question: Jim Park. Can you comment on the U.S.-China military
cooperation meeting recently Shanghai.
Adm. Blair: The Military Maritime Consultative Agreement talks, MMCA I
think you're referring to, very good set of talks last week. Admiral
Sullivan who works on my staff met with his counterpart and the
subject of the discussion was the way that we operate together in this
part of the world -- ships, aircraft, and there was an agreement on a
follow-on program of individual working group discussions of specific
functional topics. We went over the activities that we're conducting
and that we need to have an understanding of on both sides. It was a
very positive set of meetings, which will be followed up by continued
discussions. So a very good, positive set of talks.
There are other activities that it's worth going over that are
positive. We're looking forward to the visit of the Vice President of
China to the United States here soon and he will be coming through
Hawaii where my headquarters is located. Here in Hong Kong we're
looking forward next week to a search and rescue exercise in which
forces of the Pacific Command, some of the Discipline Forces of Hong
Kong, and some units from the People's Liberation Army maybe will work
together on how we can respond if any of our mariners or airmen are in
distress in this part of the world. So I think there are good contacts
that are going on both in the military and across the board in our
relations with China.
Question: Regarding the war on terrorism and U.S.-China relations
there was a proposal in an earlier Administration to have U.S. Special
Forces train or conduct some exercises with their Chinese
counterparts. I was wondering what's happened with that?
Adm. Blair: I'm not aware of that particular training event. Most of
the really meaningful activity now in the war on terrorism is
involving actual operations against terrorist groups, and I think in
our work with both China and with Hong Kong the intelligence exchanges
are really the most significant part of that right now, trying to
build this picture of the terrorist network and activities in this
part of the world, and then taking specific action in order to arrest
and disrupt individuals, financial support, logistic support and that
sort of cooperation is going on both with Hong Kong and with the main
Chinese government in Beijing. I'll certainly be discussing those
sorts of topics with Mrs. Ip this morning. Although I have not been to
Beijing since September 11th, that's what our officials are working
with the Chinese government in Beijing about.
Functional training exercises of that type we really haven't been
discussing recently, we've been concentrating on the real picture of
the terrorists who are out there right now.
Question: Does China control the flow of intelligence cooperation, has
it diminished given the tensions over the Taiwan issue?
Adm. Blair: I have an overall feeling for how it's going even though
I'm not involved in the details. My overall understanding is not that
this is being turned up or down based on other factors. I get the
feeling this is a good, workman-like exchange of information.
Right now when I compare our exchange of intelligence information in
Beijing as opposed to in other capitals, I think it needs to become
more detailed and more specific in Beijing. It's a little bit general,
whereas with other governments that we're operating with more closely,
like the Philippines or Singapore and Malaysia, it's very detailed
tactical information of the type you need to take action, and I think
we need to get to that level with Beijing. It's not quite there yet.
Question: Concerning the war on terrorism in Asia, do you see the
situation as likely to calm down or is it likely to become more
volatile? If it does become more volatile are there any other places
where the U.S. might deploy troops in light of what's been done in the
Philippines or even similar to what's been done in Afghanistan?
Adm. Blair: What I'm finding in the last six months is that we are
learning a great deal about terrorism in this part of the world that
we really didn't know before. I think Jemaah Islamiah would have been
a name that none of us would have known about six months ago, and now
we find out that they are a large organization that's been here in
places like Singapore and Malaysia for almost five years and has been
plying attacks against both American forces and other countries, so I
find I have to be a little bit modest in talking about my
understanding because we are learning more and more.
But I think the overall lines of our strategy for dealing with
terrorism are becoming clear.
First, there are no Afghanistans in this part of the world. There is
not a government in the Asia Pacific region that is actively harboring
terrorists as a matter or policy that like the Taliban shares the
goals of international terrorism in terms of its attack on other
countries and on the United States in particular. In the Asia Pacific
region there are countries all of which agree that international
terrorism should be rooted out and should be, there should be a
campaign against it.
The question in Asia is what is the most effective way to do it?
What I'm learning about the terrorism business is that in order to be
effective you have to have really unprecedented cooperation first
within your government among military organizations, intelligence
organizations, police organizations, financial, treasury
organizations, immigration and customs, coast guard. It really calls
for an unprecedented level of integration within government, and then
across governments. Military-to-military, police-to-police,
military-to-police, intelligence-to-intelligence, and that is the key
to winning in this part of the world.
The Philippines is the area in which the military component of our
cooperation is the strongest right now and that's because this
terrorist group in the southern Philippines is being attacked by the
Armed Forces of the Philippines so military assistance and support is
appropriate and was requested by the Philippines and agreed to by us.
I don't see that sort of activity in a country like say Indonesia, for
example. Our military relations are not of the kind that would support
that. On the other hand, intelligence cooperation is important.
So what I see is sort of a unique combination between each country and
What I notice from the American point of view is that there are also a
lot of cooperative measures against terrorism that the United States
is not necessarily central to them that are important. The Association
of Southeast Asian Nations is cooperating among the member nations
against terrorism in very productive ways.
Certainly China itself recognized terrorist threats a number of years
ago when the Shanghai Cooperative Organization was founded with very
much, with terrorism in mind as a common concern in this part of the
So I find that one size doesn't fit all. That you really have to
organize for the task at hand and it is most effective if we create
really new groupings of both countries and organizations against it.
Long answer, but it's a difficult question.
Question: We were seeing more contacts between the U.S. militaries and
the Taiwan military establishment the last few months. Are we also
seeing these contacts increase between Pacific Command and Taiwan?
Adm. Blair: The contacts between the Pacific Command and Taiwan are
still very much in line with the Taiwan Relations Act which really
governs our activities, which says that the United States will provide
for a sufficient defense of Taiwan, and everything we've been doing is
very consistent with that.
Question: How about on things like weapon sales? It seems pretty clear
that the Bush Administration has been the most aggressive in its
support of Taiwan of any Administration since normalization of ties.
Things like the submarine sales. This is what I read, it doesn't seem
that Taiwan is even necessarily certain that it can afford submarines
or really wants them or knows how to use them. Is it provocative to be
making these kind of weapon sales?
Adm. Blair: I studied pretty carefully the range of stuff that is
being done both by China and by Taiwan and certainly I am responsible
for what U.S. forces in this part of the world do, and I see far more
stability and consistency in the military, underlying military
relationships than perhaps you get by reading some of the accounts.
The fundamental military situation is that despite what you hear about
submarines and missiles and individual systems, it's pretty
Question: Are you talking about the U.S.-China or the U.S.-Taiwan or
Adm. Blair: I'm talking about the three-way military relationship
between the United States, China and Taiwan.
But when I study the military situation, if I look at the case, if
there would be conflict in the Taiwan Straits I do see a
lose-lose-lose situation from all points of view. It would be a loss
for Taiwan, it would be a loss for China, it would certainly be a loss
for the region as a whole. It would interfere with the economic
development of this part of the world, there would be a great deal of
destruction and there would be no solution from anybody's point of
So I think that the military, any sort of an emphasis on military
actions in the Taiwan-China-U.S. relationship is not the way to
progress, it's not a way towards the one-China and a peaceful
resolution, which is very much in the interest of all of the parties.
Question: The last time you were in Hong Kong you talked security
communities. How is that doing? Are you still advocating this?
Adm. Blair: Yes, I am. In fact I think that our common efforts in the
campaign against terrorism have really reinforced it. They've been the
most dramatic example of what we have in common as countries in this
part of the world, and a common danger. And meanwhile when I visited
your paper, some of the sorts of things you're talking about are
For example there's an exercise that will be taking place in about a
month down in Thailand called Exercise Cobra Gold and that exercise
will involve several different nations exercising on operations, which
we all have in common, peacekeeping operations, counter-narcotics
operations, even counterterrorist operations. And China will have an
observer team at that set of exercises along with 10 other countries.
So I believe that the notion of security communities in the Asia
Pacific region is really gaining practical hold, and that the war on
terrorism has given it a real boost.
Question: Should Taiwan be observers.
Adm. Blair: Our policy is that there is one China and China should
certainly be included in the kind of activities I'm talking about.
Question: Regarding your remarks about intelligence exchanges with
China, are you referring to terrorism?
Adm. Blair: I'm talking about terrorism --
Question: What would you like to see from the Chinese?
Adm. Blair: What we're trying to do in the Asia Pacific region is
build a full picture of the international terrorist network that
threatens us all. Who are the members of organizations like Jemaah
Islamiah? Where does their money come from? How do they travel? Where
do they get their documents? Where do they get their weapons? We find
that the way that we do this is by pooling our intelligence resources
and sitting down to very detailed exchanges of intelligence analysts
to do that. I think when we have all countries doing that in a very
effective way we will go a long way towards winning this campaign.
Now intelligence people are very secretive by the nature of their
business. I don't care who's country they come from, they hold their
cards pretty close so we have to work through issues of sources and
methods and issues of vetting and so on, but I've found that we can
overcome those. Naturally those countries that have a tradition of
working together in other intelligence areas it's easier, and the
United States and China have no such tradition, so it's harder going
in than it is for instance when the United States has this sort of
intelligence exchange with Australia. That's a fact. But we need to
get to that level on these common threats or else we're not really
going to be effective.
You can't fight terrorism with, we have an expression in the armed
forces, big hand, small mouth. When you make a sweeping strategic
statement you need specific information. What airplane flight is that
person going to be flying from Beijing to Manila, as a hypothetical
example, and what alias that person is going to be using -- then let's
have a picture. It's that kind of tactical granularity that you need
in order to be effective, and we need, nations in the Asia Pacific
region need to be able to reach that to be really effective.
Let me just reiterate that I'm characterizing the overall process, not
where we stand on a particular day. When I talk to our people who are
working the intelligence problem and ask them the question how the
exchange is going with China, the answer I get is we need to get into
that tactical specificity. It's in both of our interests. It's how
we're going to win against terrorists.
Question: China does possess specific information that could be
Adm. Blair: I don't know if it's there or not. Or else it just hasn't
progressed to the point that it could.
And this is tough intelligence. It's non-traditional -- it's difficult
to get human intelligence inside a terrorist organization. These are
small, clannish, segmented organizations that are hard to crack. And
they're pretty canny in a lot of their practices. So it's not that
there's a great mountain of intelligence sitting around there to be
had, it's hard work.
Question: Can you comment on the recent changes in Japanese law
regarding their military activities?
Adm. Blair: I think it's a good idea. I know there is a lot of concern
in China about Japanese military developments. I hear that directly
from Chinese officials. However, it's my observation that Japanese
developments are very measured and sensible in terms of a defensive
and responsible response to the current situation.
For instance Japanese military support to the United States in this
war on terrorism currently is logistics support. I remember before
Japan deployed its ships Prime Minister Koizumi went to Beijing and
explained to the Chinese government exactly what Japan intended to do
and then went and did exactly what he had said. He also made a trip to
South Korea and made the same explanation.
It seems to me if Japan is supporting UN Resolutions, working on
common activities such as the global war against terrorism, which
threatens us all, then using its military capability for that goal is
good for the region and being done in a transparent way.
The particular laws that you are referring to have to do with
organization for the defense of Japan which is certainly the role that
every country expects of its armed forces, and they look to me to be
very sensible things that in no way imply some sort of a threat to
Japan's neighbors. So I think it's a good idea.
Question: You testified to the U.S. Congress that China does not have
the ability to invade and hold Taiwan. Can you elaborate on that?
Adm. Blair: It's pretty self-explanatory. That's my military
assessment of the situation.
Question: Do you see any difficulties in getting permission for U.S.
battlegroups to come to Hong Kong in the future?
Adm. Blair: That is certainly the right of Hong Kong and of China to
make decisions about visits of military forces of other countries.
That's China's decision to make. However, I believe that it's very
much in the interests of Hong Kong to have port visits by American
ships. I can tell you sailors enjoy coming to Hong Kong, so I think
that ship visits should be separated from events in other parts of the
world an in other areas and they ought to be continued for both sides.
Question: On China, you mentioned from your position from behind the
scenes that things have grown increasingly stable in the military.
Adm. Blair: I'd say continuing stability.
Question: On EP-3 missions - I've read reports that there are still
near miss kind of situations going on. Has that been the case?
Adm. Blair: No. The situation now as I look at the operations of
Chinese aircraft and U.S. military aircraft in this part of the world
are being conducted in a very professional manner. It's not like the
situation before April 1st of last year when Chinese airmanship was
very dangerous. As you know we notified China back in December that
their pilots were flying in an unsafe manner. Now the airmanship that
I see around in this part of the world is very professional.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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