News / Asia

US Pacific Commander Sees Challenges in Chinese Military, North Korea

David Dyar

The top U.S. commander for Asia and the Pacific, Navy Admiral Robert Willard, says a growing and assertive Chinese military presents a challenge for the United States and its regional partners. Willard heads U.S. Pacific Command. He briefed reporters this week on security challenges in the Pacific region, which he says include an unstable government in North Korea.

Admiral Willard says Chinese military expansion has been dramatic, especially during the past decade, and that the United States wants to engage Chinese military officials in areas of joint interest. "My charter is to enhance the military relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China, and to the extent that we can, to see the People's Liberation Army service components enter into the region as a constructive partner.  We are having limited success in military engagement with the Chinese. "
China suspended military-to-military exchanges with the United States early this year in response to an announcement in January of a $6.4 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended the sale at a security conference in Singapore last month.  He noted the recent buildup of Chinese cruise and ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, and said the military sale is in accordance with U.S. law and serves to keep the peace in the region.  Gates said the United States does not support independence for Taiwan, which China views as a renegade territory.  A senior Chinese general at the conference, however, blamed the United States for the chill in military relations.  

In San Diego, Admiral Willard contrasted what he called the sophistication and maturity of the dialogue with China's civilian leadership to the reluctance of the country's military to engage in exchanges.  Willard notes that China has separate lines of authority for its military command and civilian government, although the lines meet at the top in the person of President Hu Jintao, who heads both the military and civilian branches.  Still, Willard says, the branches are largely separate.

"And to the extent that there are two Chinas that we're viewing, the People's Liberation Army on one side and the very sophisticated civilian side among their ministries, then it should be a concern, I believe, inside China, but also a concern for the region and for the United States with regard to that apparatus and how effective it will be, given the growth in military capability and capacity that we have witnessed over these past years."

Willard says U.S. and Chinese officials agree on the importance of cooperation in areas such as disaster response, countering piracy and peacekeeping.  He notes that China was involved in relief efforts in Haiti and has plans for humanitarian work in the Pacific, work that the U.S. military also engages in.  He says expanded military-to-military exchanges would benefit both sides and could lead to productive discussions over disagreements.

Willard says U.S. officials are monitoring recent confrontations between Chinese authorities and foreign vessels in the East and South China Seas, where he says the Chinese military has become increasingly assertive in enforcing China's claims to disputed territories such as Paracel, Spratly and Senkaku Islands.

With regard to the Korean Penninsula, Willard says the United States is finalizing plans for military exercises with South Korea, following the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March.  The ship is widely believed to have been struck by a North Korean torpedo, although Pyongyang denies any role in the sinking.  

Willard says U.S. officials assume that little happens in North Korea without approval of the government, and that they believe the attack was an effort by North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il to assert his authority.  Willard notes that Mr. Kim is believed to be in poor health and that he has named a son, Kim Jong Un, as his successor.  "Succession tends to bring provocations with it as they attempt to shore up, in this case, his son's reputation and authority over the military and the North Korean regime," he said.

The American commander says U.S. officials are working with their Asian counterparts on other security issues, including transnational terrorism.  He says that is also an area in which China and the United States share a common interest.  

There might be hints of a possible thaw in military relations between the two countries.  The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that a senior Chinese military official says Defense Secretary Gates is welcome to visit China at what the official termed "an appropriate time."

U.S. officials say Gates had hoped to visit Beijing when he was in Asia in June, but Chinese officials withdrew their invitation in response to the Taiwan arms sale.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid