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American Forces Press Service

Pentagon Officials Explore Renewed Relations With China

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2010 – Defense Department officials are encouraged by signs that the Chinese may renew military-to-military relations in advance of presidential talks between the two countries early next year, the Pentagon press secretary said today.

Geoff Morrell said Pentagon leaders are encouraged by reports from the White House that Chinese officials signaled their interest in resuming military relations to the administration’s economic delegation during a visit to Beijing this week.

“The Chinese have clearly signaled their interest in resuming military-to-military discussions, and we are right now exploring how best to do that,” Morrell said during a Pentagon press briefing.

China halted its military-to-military relations with the United States in February in protest of a U.S. arms shipment to Taiwan.

A meeting is planned between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao early next year, “so we very much would like to make progress before the end of the year,” Morrell said. Military-to-military relations, he said, help the two countries avoid misunderstandings, miscommunication, and miscalculations.

It is possible that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would meet with his Chinese counterpart if invited, Morrell said in answer to a Chinese reporter’s question. But he added, “This is not engagement for the sake of engagement. We're not just looking for a reciprocal visit by Secretary Gates. What we are looking for is a resumption of productive, transparent, military-to-military engagement, so that we can both gain a better understanding of what our ambitions are, what our intentions are, when it comes to our military budgets, how we operate, where we operate and so forth.”

Meanwhile, Morrell said, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington will return to exercises in the Yellow Sea, not as an affront to China, but to warn North Korea to stop its aggressive behavior. A date has not been set for the carrier to return to the area, he said.

“This is not an affront to the Chinese,” he said. “It's not meant to send a message to the Chinese. It's meant to send a message to the North Koreans about their behavior.”

Military officials are also studying the possible joint use of U.S. military facilities in Futenma, Japan, Morrell said, to “improve the effectiveness of the alliance's defense posture.”

Also, in answer to a reporter’s question, Morrell said the U.S. military plans to fly V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in Japan.

Morrell also announced that Gates will host a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in the Pentagon next week.

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