‘U.S.'s military ties with China to be consistent with political ties’
America’s military relationship with China will be consistent with its political ties with the country, the US’ top military officer said today. “Our military-to-military relationships are informed by our national objectives, and so the nature of our military-to- military relationship with China right now will be very consistent with our political relationship with China,” Gen Joseph Dunford, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Washington audience.
“But at a minimum, open lines of communication to mitigate the risk miscalculation and to address some of the incidents at sea and in the air that we’ve seen, much like we talked about Russia earlier. We’ve seen similar incidents with China,” Dunford said in response to a question at the Brookings Institute, a top American think-tank.
“With regard to our military-to-military relationships with China, I think positive military-to-military relationships are important,” he said.
Dunford said he has spoken to his Chinese counterpart and conducted a video teleconference. He said he expects a face-to-face meeting sometime in the near future.
Responding to a question on the South China Sea, Dunford said the US respects sovereignty in the region.
“We respect what we call access to the global commons, and that is, again, the airspace and sea that’s accessible to all. And so the presence of that (US) aircraft carrier is designed to do what I spoke about earlier, which is (to) exercise our right to operate, to sail, to fly wherever international law allows,” he said.
“That’s what we’re doing and we demonstrate that routinely to maintain the sanctity of that framework,” he said.
Noting that there are a number of claimants to the territories in the South China Sea, Dunford said the right way to handle that was through the framework of international law.
“And that was via the Hague ruling last year that specifically related to this Scarborough Shoal, one of the contest territories in the South China Sea,” he said.
Defence Secretary James Mattis said recently that these territories, which are contested, need to be addressed politically, through a legal framework consistent with international law, Dunford noted.
“And when Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson said something needed to be done with it, I didn’t immediately jump to a military solution,” he told the audience in response to a question.
“Completely separate from the South China Sea we have to talk broadly about the purpose of (the) US military posture in the Pacific and at the strategic level it’s nothing more, nothing less than a posture sufficient to advance our interest in the region,” Dunford said.
“One of our interests is meeting our alliance commitments in the region, deterring conflict in the region and setting the conditions for us to have, which is what we always talked about with the Pacific, that we’re a Pacific Nation, that we have very strong economic interest in the region, very strong social and cultural interest in the region,” he said.
“So the conditions that we set with our military posture are designed to advance those interests. It is not designed specifically for the South China Sea, our posture in the Pacific as a whole is designed for our broader interests. One of which is the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes,” Dunford said.
He said the US exercises its right of navigation and the international community’s right of navigation and its military posture is designed to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows to make it clear that that is the regime that America recognises in the Pacific.