Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen has made it clear he stands in agreement with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that China’s military is standing in the way of improved U.S.-China relations.
“From what I see, in the request to visit [with Chinese military leaders in China] that has been ongoing with Secretary of Defense Gates, I certainly agree with his assessment that it is [China’s] military that’s holding us back,” Mullen said, according to the Department of Defense.
Gates has traveled to Singapore for the Shangri-la dialogue and conference for discussion with Asian military leaders. China is not in attendance.
“Nearly all of the aspects of the relationship between the United States and China are moving forward in a positive direction with the sole exception of the military-to-military relationship,” said Gates.
Gates wanted to meet with the Chinese, but he was “disinvited” to the visit. Gates and Mullen cite the United States’ arms deal with Taiwan as the reason for China’s response.
“The Taiwan arms sale is one we’re committed to and will continue to be committed too,” Mullen said. “It is in support of our national policy which is in support of the Taiwan Relations Act and it’s going to continue. The criticality of the military-to-military relationship with the Chinese can’t be overstated,” the chairman said, noting his personal attempts to meet with Chinese military leaders. “We need to have that. It has gone through fits and starts.
Mullen feels that a dialogue is crucial to a working partnership in the geopolitical spectrum.
“The whole idea of that engagement and relations is to understand us better and understand where we’re headed,” Mullen continued. “You have to ask the hard questions — we don’t have to agree on everything, but [the relationship needs] to improve so that we can have a better understanding of what our priorities are in creating a sustained, secure environment in that part of the world.”