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American Forces Press Service

Keating: Engagement With China May Clarify Its Military Intentions

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia, April 10, 2008 – China’s military expansion raises questions and concerns, so the best way to get a clear sense of what China is up to and why is to engage with its leaders, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said here today.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating said in response to a reporter’s question that he asked about China’s activities during both trips he’s made there since taking command of PaCom last year.

“We have expressed to them our concern for their development of certain kinds of weapons: aerial-denial weapons and satellite technology and the growth of their submarine force, for example,” he said. “They counter by telling us they only want to protect those things that are theirs.”

That’s fair, Keating conceded, but it doesn’t fully explain the rationale behind China’s actions.

“We at Pacific Command seek not just transparency, but clearer intention, expressed by our Chinese colleagues,” he said. “And it is our firm desire and intention to continue the dialog with our Chinese colleagues so as to develop an even better understanding of their intention.”

Keating cited an apparent disconnect between what China says and what it is doing.

“They profess to seek a peaceful rise and harmonious integration,” he said, quoting Chinese leaders’ own words. “We are all for that. But they have to show us, in our view, how they intend to achieve that while developing these certain weapons. We think there is some contradiction in the stated goals vs. the practices we are observing.”

Ignoring China or the People’s Liberation Army isn’t the answer, he said. “We don’t want to fence them off. We don’t want to isolate them into a corner,” he said. “We are happy to try to work with them.”

Keating expressed hope that by engaging with China, including offering its leaders an opportunity to observe multilateral exercises, the United States and its partners might get the Chinese to open up.

“It is our clear purpose to draw them out, to engage with them, … so as to ensure they are aware of what it is we are about,” he said. Keating emphasized that “we” refers not just to the United States, but also to the entire Asia-Pacific region.

This engagement, he said, might give the Chinese the opportunity “to prove what they profess to believe” and help reduce concerns throughout the region about its military programs.

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