Thursday, October 8, 2009

PACOM Pick: Restore U.S.-China Military Ties

Defense News


PACOM Pick: Restore U.S.-China Military Ties

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — The United States wants to restore the military-to-military relations that China shut down last October, but that will require an “evolutionary process,” said Navy Adm. Robert Willard, who has been nominated as the next commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Willard made the comments before a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomi­nation July 9.

He told congressional leaders that “everyone collectively desires to see China emerge as a constructive partner, and a constructive partner in regional security, certainly.” And that military-to-military dialogue is an “important venue against all the diplomatic and other efforts that our nation currently has invested in China as a nation,” he said.

China severed military-to-military relations with the United States following a $6.4 billion arms deal between the United States and Taiwan last October. Willard did not address the Taiwan issue during the hearing.

Instead, most of the questions and answers addressed recent North Korean saber-rattling.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., told Willard that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, was “behaving like a young tot without the benefit of having a babysitter nearby.” Nelson said China needs to “focus on this and recognize that it’s a threat.”

Willard said the United States needs to “leverage China, their leadership, their government in terms of influencing North Korea.” He said North Korea’s actions are not in China’s interests.

“We’re in a period of opportunity now where Chinese leadership can and should exert their influence, to the extent that they have it over North Korean leadership, in order to bring the current situation of provocations under control,” he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Willard about loopholes in the recent U.N. Security Resolution 1874. The United States followed, but did not board, a North Korean vessel, the Kang Nam, that was suspected of carrying illicit weapons.

Willard said the U.N. resolution only allows for “consensual search,” and that when the ship refuses, the issue has to be communicated to the U.N. Security Council. McCain said China and Russia, members of the Security Council, would “not enact meaningful sanctions.”

Regarding recent North Korean missile launches, Willard said it could be due to a “confluence of events,” including the ill health of Kim Jong Il, North Korean leadership succession issues, and a change in the administrations of South Korea and the United States.