Saturday, September 26, 2009

China, U.S. To Create Hot Line -- Once Again

Defense News


China, U.S. To Create Hot Line -- Once Again


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.