PaCom Woos China
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the Pacific Command (PaCom), is visiting China from Jan. 13-16 to meet with senior officials of the Central Military Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Guangzhou Military Region Command.
The four-day visit is Keating’s second since taking command of PaCom in March 2007. His first visit, in May, took place as part of his annual visit to China.
"This trip is an opportunity to meet with key leaders and build relationships that will ultimately ensure greater cooperation and collaboration across the spectrum of military-to-military relations,” Keating said. “Our goal is to develop and enhance a constructive relationship through military-to-military engagement. We will work with our Chinese counterparts to increase understanding between our militaries, encourage cooperation on mutual security concerns, capitalize on gains we have realized and reduce chances for miscalculation."
Keating’s visit to China is within his area of operations as PaCom commander and there is growing interest in building military-to-military relations with China. Sources say Keating is unlikely to discuss the hot line issue at any length since both sides have already agreed to implement a hot line between Beijing and Washington and now technical questions are being worked out.
“Chinese senior officials, both military and civilian, invariably restate their country’s policy message on Taiwan during conversations with visiting American senior officials,” said former PaCom commander Adm. Dennis Blair. “Senior American military officers restate American policy on Taiwan, but they also make it clear, and they are in an authoritative position to do so, that should the policy differences between the two countries result in military action, China would suffer military defeat and pay many additional political and economic penalties.
“I believe that in recent years, since the time I was the Pacific commander, the Chinese have been more interested in discussions on areas in which our countries can cooperate in the military sphere,” Blair added. “I know that Admiral Keating believes there are real possibilities here and is interested in pursuing them. I am also sure that the subject of the refusal of port visits to Hong Kong will be discussed. Routine port visits, especially those involving family reunions and emergency fueling, should not be used to send political messages, if we are to develop the sort of mature military-military relationship that will benefit both countries.”
A press release issued by Chinese Ministry of Defense on Jan. 8 states, “China takes positive attitude toward developing military relations with the United States, and hopes Keating's visit could further enhance understanding, expand consensus and boost cooperation, so as to promote the bilateral military ties to grow steadily in the new year.” The press release is one of the first to be released by the new Information Department of the Ministry of National Defense, which will handle both domestic and foreign press relations. The development of a press relations department is a positive sign after criticism by the U.S. of a lack of transparency of the Chinese military.