Washington: Ahead of the resumption of Sino-US military-to-military dialogue, the Obama administration has asked China to be more transparent in its defence communication with America, saying there is uncertainty about Beijing's future capabilities and intentions.
"Much like the region itself, China's future remains uncertain," Michael Schiffer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia policy, said in his remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
This is a remarkably complex moment in the history for China as it acquires new capabilities and begins to play a greater role in regional and global economic and security affairs, he said.
"And it is this very uncertainty about China's future capabilities and intentions that makes the military component of the bilateral relationship so extraordinarily challenging and so extraordinarily important to get right," he said.
"It is the question, in fact, that we each have about each other, because China certainly has questions about us, just as we have questions about China, that underscores the importance of developing a deeper dialogue and a more durable military and security relationship between our two countries," Schiffer said.
This is an issue that the US talks quite openly and frankly with the Chinese, he said. "We emphasise on our part that while we understand that China is a growing economic power, it's modernising its military in ways that are natural aspects of any country's development, (but) the lack of transparency about the nature of China's investments, its intents and its doctrine has caused disquiet in the United States and the region."
"It is, therefore, in both of our countries' interest, indeed in the interest of the region as a whole, that we are able to have forthcoming and candid conversations about China's military modernisation and in particular about some of the anti-access capabilities that we think we see in the pipeline, but which we understand imperfectly," Schiffer said.
"It is precisely because we seek to avoid the sort of uncertainty and insecurity which if not managed properly can lead to a dangerous and unwanted security competition that we recognise the need to build a healthy military-to-military relationship, ... that as we like to say is sustained, reliable and continuous," he observed.
His remarks came ahead of Defence Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Beijing next week for the bilateral military-to-military dialogue. Schiffer noted that both President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao have expressed their commitment to seek a positive, cooperative and comprehensive bilateral relationship.
"They are clear that they see the military-to-military component as an integral part of this comprehensive relationship," he said.
Pentagon, he said, wants what both Obama and Hu want: sustained and reliable military-to-military contacts at all levels that can help reduce miscommunication, misunderstanding and the risk of miscalculation.
Schiffer said the US has made it clear to China that it stands ready whenever the Chinese Army is ready to engage with it and is serious about getting on with the hard work, the critically necessary work, of building a substantive and meaningful relationship.
"Without putting too fine a point on it, there is some reason to believe that the (Chinese) PLA (People's Liberation Army) is aware of the danger that arises whenever militaries decide to cut off communication with one another," he said.
"... we believe that the fundamental purpose for our two countries in conducting the military-to-military relation is therefore to gain a better understanding of how each side thinks about the role and use of military power in achieving its national security objectives," Schiffer said.
A fully functioning military-to-military relationship can help both sides to develop a more acute awareness of the potential for cooperation and competition, and can help each side find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that exist to cooperate, he asserted.
First Published: Saturday, January 08, 2011, 12:38