"China and the United States are two of the world's great powers," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said after meeting recently in Beijing with China's Minister of National Defense General Liang Guanglie to re-establish military-to-military relations. "[W]e both recognize the responsibilities and opportunities that status entails -- including showing the rest of the world the benefits that arise when great nations cooperate on matters of shared interests."
China cut off military-to-military ties with the U.S. after the U.S. government sold defensive weapons to Taiwan last year. Building a sustained and reliable relationship between the two militaries is an indispensable part of strengthening the broader relationship between China and the United States, Secretary Gates said. "In order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent, and not subject to shifting political winds."
Secretary Gates said that he and General Liang have agreed to establish a working group that will develop a new framework for improving ties between the U.S. and Chinese military establishments. This group will present the framework during the 2011 Defense Consultative Talks. They have also agreed to hold working group meetings under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement to discuss future maritime operational safety.
"[W]e agreed," he said, "to look into a number of joint military activities ranging from maritime search and rescue, to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, [and] counterterrorism. . . Not only will joint exercises improve certain key capabilities on both sides, they also will lead to safer practices for our sea and air forces, and, over time, cultivate trust and lead to more opportunities for defense cooperation.
"Our two nations now have an extraordinary opportunity to define the relationship not by the obstacles that at times divide us," Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded, "but by the opportunities that exist to foster greater cooperation and bring us closer together."