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American Forces Press Service

Gates Asks Xu to Help Break 'On-Again, Off-Again' Cycle

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 – Breaking the cycle of "on-again, off-again" military-to-military relations between the United States and China is of primary importance to the two nations, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told his Chinese counterpart here today.

Gates met with Chinese Gen. Xu Caihou, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Liberation Army, for more than an hour at the Pentagon. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell called the meetings "good and productive."

The two men spoke about the course of U.S.-Chinese relations, the progress made on military-to-military relations and the military-to-military goals for 2010.

Gates emphasized that the military-to-military relationship is key to the overall relationship between the two countries, Morrell said. He listed a number of areas where the United States and China cooperate and operate together. These include humanitarian operations, disaster relief, maritime security, counter-piracy, counter-proliferation and counter-narcotics.

"[Gates] also said there is a need to break the on-again, off-again cycle of our military-to-military relationship," Morrell said.

This often happens as military leaders "make strides, have a good visit, agree to cooperate on certain things and then there will be a hiccup that causes a suspension in mil-to-mil relations,” he continued. “[Gates] said that cycle has to end."

Xu said the two countries need to increase cooperation and military exchanges particularly in education opportunities for junior officers and senior noncommissioned officers.

The visit paved the way for the secretary to make a reciprocal visit to China early next year. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also will visit his Chinese counterpart in the coming months.

The secretary praised efforts aimed at transparency in military affairs, Morrell said. The Chinese recently issued a White Paper, which – in part -- explains the justification for the Chinese military build-up.

The two defense leaders discussed Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The take-away is that there was broad agreement on the importance of and how to deal with the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the need to work together to create a more stable and secure environment in both those places," Morrell said.

There also is an appreciation for the United States and China to work together to prevent Iran and North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons and proliferating. The Chinese encouraged engagement and diplomacy for these countries.

Gates thanked the Chinese for their help in recovering the remains of U.S. personnel from previous wars.

"We've seen increased cooperation lately, and that was appreciated and noted and the secretary shared that with General Xu," Morrell said.

Tomorrow, Xu will travel to Fort Benning, Ga., and then move on to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The general will visit Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Oct. 29 and will move on to San Diego where he will tour the USS Ronald Reagan on Oct. 30.

The general then will tour U.S. bases in the Pacific region as the guest of the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, before returning to Beijing on Nov. 3.

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