News / Asia

US Pacific Commander Sees Challenges in Chinese Military, North Korea

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid