China, U.S. To Create Hot Line -- Once Again
BY WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — The U.S. Department of Defense and China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) agreed Feb. 29 to establish a hot line for use in crises.
The defense telephone link (DTL) equipment will be installed within weeks, allowing the hot line to go live in March, said Maj. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for the office of the U.S. defense secretary.
“We welcome this important step forward in enhancing communication between our militaries. The DTL will be a useful tool to make contact quickly, clarify issues and avoid miscalculations,” Upton said.
The agreement was signed in Shanghai by David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asian Security Affairs, and Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, director of the MND Foreign Affairs Office.
One former U.S. defense official said the agreement is largely symbolic, since an executive-level hot line already exists between the White House and Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex that serves as the Communist Party headquarters.
“The real catch is that there was already a hot line between China and the U.S. established in the late 1990s after the 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis,” he said. “The DTL has been under negotiations since July 2003, but the Chinese military has resisted it because a hot line already exists.” The U.S. established hot lines with Zhongnanhai in the late 1990s and Taiwan’s military in 2003.
“When U.S. aircraft carriers appeared in the Taiwan area during the crisis, both Taiwan and China were surprised no one in Washington told the Taiwanese or the Chinese we were coming,” the former official said.
However, when a damaged EP-3 Orion, an electronic eavesdropping aircraft, landed on China’s Hainan Island in 2001, officials at Zhongnanhai refused to answer the phone, the source said. The idea for the DTL grew out of that experience, but there is still no guarantee the Chinese military will use it during a crisis.