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Secretary Hagel's Remarks at People's Liberation Army National Defense University

Speaker: Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Published April 8, 2014

Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to China and Japan as part of the Obama administration's rebalance to the Asia Pacific region. On April 8, 2014, he spoke at the PLA's National Defense University about military-to-military relations and took questions about the U.S. stance on East China Sea and South China Sea disputes, the status of Taiwan, and the rapid economic development in China.


Since the Second World War, American and Asian investment in this rules-based order has produced extraordinary results, including here in China. For our part, the United States has helped to provide access to global markets, technology, and capital; underwritten the free flow of energy and natural resources through open seas; and maintained alliances that have helped keep the peace. We haven't done it alone. We've done it with partners.

America's rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific is about ensuring that America's presence and engagement - including our relationship with China - keeps pace with the Asia-Pacific's rapidly evolving economic, diplomatic, and security environment.

The rebalance also reaffirms America's longstanding bonds of history, commerce, and friendship throughout this region. This includes commitments to our treaty allies - Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines. And it includes our deepening ties with members of ASEAN. That is not - must not be, nor will be - at the exclusion of strengthening our relationship with China. That is why I just visited Japan, one of America's closest allies, and last week hosted an ASEAN defense ministers forum in the United States, the first time we've ever done so. In both settings, I not only emphasized America's interest in continuing to build a lasting and constructive relationship with China, I encouraged all of our allies, all of our allies and partners to build long, consistent, productive relationships with China.

All nations have the responsibility to pursue common interests with their neighbors and to settle disputes peacefully in accordance with international law and recognized norms. But as a nation's power and prosperity grows, so do its responsibilities. And whether the 21st century is one marked by progress, security, and prosperity will depend greatly on how China and other leading Asian Pacific powers meet their responsibilities to uphold a rules-based order.

Disputes in the South China and East China Seas must be resolved through international norms and laws. We must trust in those laws and those norms. The United States has been clear about the East and South China Sea disputes. We do not take a position on sovereignty claims, but we expect these disputes to be managed and resolved peacefully and diplomatically, and oppose the use of force or coercion. And our commitment to allies in the region is unwavering.

Great powers must resolve their disputes peacefully and responsibly. Strengthening the peace and avoiding conflict requires leadership. It requires courage. It requires understanding. It requires reaching out. And it requires cooperation. It also requires a careful management of differences, all of which are important parts of President Xi and President Obama's vision for China-U.S. relations.

Today, I had the opportunity to engage in productive discussions with General Chang. As I mentioned earlier, we spent most of the morning together. We spent a good part of the morning talking about our military-to-military relationship, how we can support the vision of President Xi and President Obama. We discussed the responsibility we have to reassure each other - and to reassure other nations throughout this region - reassure them about our capabilities and our intentions, because that is how we build trust.

We also discussed the need to take a long-term perspective, because both of our nations are, and will remain, Pacific powers, great powers. And in order to deepen mutual understanding, we cannot shy away from addressing difficult issues. We must deal straight up, honestly, directly with each other in confronting disagreements and difficult issues.

With these ideas in mind, I believe our "new model" of military-to-military relations should proceed on three tracks: first, maintaining sustained and substantive dialogue; second, forging concrete, practical cooperation where our interests converge; and, third, working to manage competition and differences through openness and communications.

The foundation for our military-to-military cooperation must be a sustained and substantive dialogue. The engine for this dialogue has been our high-level exchanges. We must continue and increase those exchanges. This in particular has been an area of notable progress.

Last year, China hosted General Dempsey, our senior military officer and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as well as our Air Force Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Naval Operations. I was honored to host General Chang at the Pentagon last year. We also hosted Admiral Wu Shengli, your chief of naval operations.

You recently hosted General Odierno, our Army Chief of Staff. Later this month, our Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Greenert, will visit China. And, next month, General Dempsey will host his counterpart in Washington, General Fang, for another exchange.

More bilateral exchanges and visits are planned, and earlier today General Chang and I agreed on two important new mechanisms: We will establish a high-level Asia-Pacific security dialogue, and we will create an Army-to-Army dialogue. This will deepen substantive military discussions and institutional understanding.

When they are substantive, these discussions are invaluable. They're invaluable because they help identify areas where we can and should pursue concrete, practical cooperation - the second track of our military-to-military relations, which is vitally important.

Already, we have identified non-traditional security missions as areas of clear mutual interests, including counter-piracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, and maritime safety. One example of our practical cooperation is these areas where we can do more, and specifically annual Disaster Management Exchanges held now between our militaries, and with representatives of the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency. Last November's exchange, held in Hawaii, included a first-ever exercise involving PLA troops on U.S. soil.

We are set to deepen this practical cooperation. In addition to welcoming China to this year's RIMPAC exercise, today I invited the PLA to participate in a military medical cooperation activity that will take place afterwards.

By building trust where we have common interests, practical cooperation and sustained dialogue will help us work through disagreements and more effectively manage competition, which is the third track of our military-to-military engagement.

Managing the competitive aspects of our relationship requires us to be more candid, more open, more transparent about our capabilities, our intentions, and, again, our disagreements, even on the most sensitive subjects. This openness is not only for our mutual benefit. It provides assurances to an increasingly anxious region unsure of our intentions.

The United States has taken significant steps to be more open with China about our capabilities, intentions, and disagreements. And we will continue to welcome initiatives by China to do the same, particularly as China undertakes significant military modernization efforts.

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