Will fly in international airspace: Mike Mullen
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Last Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 09:23
Washington: China's objection to the America's reconnaissance flights over the South China Sea region will not deter the US from flying in the international air space, a top Pentagon official said here on Monday.

"We won't be deterred from flying in international airspace," Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told correspondents at a news conference.

Mullen has just returned from a trip to China, where he said these issues were discussed with his Chinese counterpart, General Chen Bingd, but differences persist.

"We do not agree on everything, and neither of us really expected that we would. There are still very real, very substantive issues between us that inhibit the sort of close cooperation and partnership we enjoy with other militaries in the region," he said.

"The Chinese object to Taiwan arm sales. We object to the use of coercion in settling disputes in the South China Sea. The Chinese don't like our routine reconnaissance flights in international airspace. And we don't like any attempt to inhibit freedom of navigation and access to the global commons, to include international waters and airspace," Mullen said.

"I think that's just going to have to be OK for right now. In fact, I would argue that genuine disagreement is a healthy part of any relationship. The hard part is trying to move past those areas where you simply cannot find common ground to those where you can. And General Chen and I are trying to do that," he said.

"The initiatives we agreed to are good, healthy first steps in what I consider a burgeoning relationship, but they are only first steps. We have a long way to go in our relationship with China and no recent history of strategic trust upon which to build it," he said.

"I'm under no illusion about the magnitude of the problem in that regard any more than I am about the importance of having a relationship with the PLA not solely given over to reaction and overreaction by either side," Mullen said, adding, the time is now to try to make this work, especially given the great significance of the Asia Pacific region to global security and prosperity.

No doubt, developing military relationship with China is in America's interests, but the US cannot let it dominate its thinking, planning, and force posture decisions, he said.

"We have other vital and enduring security commitments in the region that we must also deepen and broaden. That's why I also made it a point to visit Korea and Japan, two of our staunchest allies there," he added.


First Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 09:23

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