BEIJING, April 8, 2014 – At the invitation of Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the Chinese Defense Ministry’s headquarters here today.
Hagel met with Chang and then a larger group of defense officials before he and Chang revealed during a news conference a new model for U.S.-China military-to-military relations.
The secretary’s visit to Beijing comes in the middle of a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region, during which he visited Japan and will travel to Mongolia later this week. The trip began in Hawaii with the first meeting for defense ministers of the 10 member countries of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations to be held in the United States.
“One focus of our discussion today was how we develop a new model of military-to-military relations,” Hagel said about his meeting with Chang. “We’ve just finished a very good meeting,” the secretary added, “during which I restated that the United States is committed to continuing to build a constructive and productive relationship with China.”
Hagel explained that the United States believes its approach should be to build a sustained and substantive dialogue, deepen practical cooperation in areas of common interest, and manage competition and differences through openness and communication.
In each area, he added, there is much work to do, but the nations are making strong progress.
“As General Chang announced, we agreed today on several new ways to improve our military-to-military relationship,” Hagel said. First, the U.S. and Chinese defense agencies will establish an army-to-army dialogue as an institutionalized mechanism within the framework of the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship.
Second, the secretary added, “we agreed to participate in a joint military-medical cooperative activity. This will build on experiences gained at the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise, a U.S.-hosted multilateral naval exercise that China will participate in for the first time this summer.”
Third, Hagel said, the defense agencies will establish an Asia-Pacific security dialogue between the assistant secretary of defense for Asia-Pacific security affairs and the director of the Chinese Defense Ministry’s foreign affairs office to exchange views on a range of security issues.
“This dialogue will build on the discussions Gen. Chong and I had today on regional security issues,” the secretary said, “including North Korea and the growing threat posed by its nuclear and missile programs.”
Hagel added that continued instability in Northeast Asia is not in China’s interest, and that the United States is deeply concerned about the threat North Korea poses to U.S. treaty allies and, increasingly, to the homeland.
“The United States and China have a shared interest in achieving a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
Hagel and Chang also discussed tensions in the East and South China seas.
“I underscored that all parties should refrain from provocative actions and the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression to advance their claims,” the secretary said. “Such disputes must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law.”
Hagel noted that yesterday he toured China’s aircraft carrier, met personnel aboard the ship and had an opportunity to listen. He will later speak to officers at the National Defense University and is looking forward to visiting with noncommissioned officers, whom he characterized as the backbone of all militaries.
“Exchanges like this at every level of command are critical for building mutual understanding and also respect, Hagel said. “Our vision is a future where our militaries can work closely together on a range of challenges, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.”
To reach this objective, the secretary said, “we must be candid about issues we disagree about, [but also continue] to deepen our cooperation in areas where we do agree. We have many common interests, and we agree on many things.”
Regarding cybersecurity, Hagel emphasized the need for the United States and China to be more open about each other’s capabilities and intentions in this critically important domain.
“Greater openness about cyber reduces the risk that misunderstanding and misperception could lead to miscalculation,” he said. “More transparency will strengthen China-U.S. relations.”
The U.S.-China relationship is important for stability and security in the Asia-Pacific, and for achieving prosperity for both nations in the 21st century, the secretary added.
“As President [Barack] Obama has said,” Hagel noted, “the United States welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous China.”