Department of Defense Press Briefing with Secretary Hagel and Gen. Chang from the Pentagon

Press Conference

By:  Charles Hagel
Date: Aug. 19, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon. Today, I'm pleased to welcome Minister of Defence General Chang to the Pentagon. We just finished a very productive meeting, where I restated that the United States is committed to building a positive and constructive relationship with China. The China-U.S. relationship is important for stability and security in the Asia Pacific and achieving security and prosperity for our two nations in the 21st century.

One of the themes we emphasized today was that a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar for this strong bilateral relationship. The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that help solve regional and global problems.

Our goal is to build trust between our militaries through cooperation. The United States has invited for the first time the PLA navy to join our largest multilateral naval exercise, RIMPAC, that will take place next year. This morning, General Chang and I have affirmed that we will continue expanding our defense exchanges and joint exercises. Earlier this summer, for the first time, Chinese midshipmen joined in a multinational exchange program at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Today, our Military Maritime Consultative Agreement Working Group is meeting in Hawaii to discuss humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And this weekend, our navies will conduct another counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden, building on the first-ever joint counter-piracy exercise we held last year.

General Chang brought up two of the initiatives that President Xi proposed to President Obama at their summit in June, one, a way to notify each other of major military activities, and, two, rules of behavior for military air and naval activities.

I welcomed this discussion and noticed that the transparency that we've had is important to reducing the risk of miscalculation and avoiding unintended tensions or conflicts. Our staffs are exploring those initiatives and will continue discussing them.

General Chang and I have also both welcomed this recent establishment of the new U.S.-China cyber working group as a venue for addressing issues of mutual concern in the area of cyber. We discussed a number of regional security issues, as well, including North Korea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and I reaffirmed longstanding U.S. policies on these issues.

With respect to competing maritime claims, I noted that while the United States does not take a position on sovereignty in these cases, we do have an interest in these claims being resolved peacefully, without coercion. The general and I affirmed the importance of maintaining open channels of communication, and we agreed that it's important to continue high-level visits, such as, as you all are aware, General Dempsey's visit to China earlier this year.

General Odierno and General Welsh will visit China later this year, and PLA Navy Commander Admiral Wu will visit the United States. Today, General Dempsey also offered to host his counterpart, PLA General Fang, for a visit to the United States next year.

In our meeting this morning, General Chang invited me to visit China next year, and I enthusiastically accepted. I look forward to seeing him again at next week's ASEAN defense ministers meeting in Brunei, as part of my trip to Southeast Asia. I'll also visit Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines on this trip.

Now I'll ask General Chang for his comments before we take questions from all of you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

GENERAL CHANG WANQUAN (through translator): Friends from the press, good afternoon. At the invitation of Secretary Hagel, I am leading this senior military delegation from the People's Liberation Army to visit the United States, bringing the friendship from the Chinese people and the Chinese military. The purpose of my visit is to implement the important consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Obama of building a new model of major country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation, to further increase mutual understanding, to enhance mutual trust, to promote mutual cooperation, and to push forward the sound and stable development of our national and military relations.

In the -- in the past few days, we visited U.S. PACOM, U.S. NORTHCOM, and NORAD. We were well received and experienced warm hospitality from the American people and from the officers and soldiers of the U.S. military. Here let me say thank you on behalf of all my colleagues.

This morning, Secretary Hagel and I had a candid and deepened exchange of views over our national and military relations, international and regional security issues, and other issues of common concerns. We reached five agreements.

Firstly, we both agreed that our military-to-military relationship is an important component of our overall bilateral relations and that the current military relationship is gaining a good momentum. We both agreed to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the two presidents during their Sunnylands summit to work together to strengthen our military relationship and attempt to elevate it to a new height.

Secondly, we both agreed to continue to strengthen our high-level visits, deepen our consultations and dialogues in order to increase our mutual trust. Specifically, the U.S. welcomes the visit by the PLA chief of general staff in 2014. China welcomes the visit by U.S. secretary of defense and chief of naval operations in 2014.

Secretary Hagel and I agreed to set up an exchange mechanism between the PLA Strategic Planning Department and J5 Strategic, Plans and Policy, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. We also agreed to take use of mechanisms, such as defense consultative talks, military maritime consultative agreements, to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and continue to study the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities.

Thirdly, we both believe that the Chinese and the U.S. militaries are carrying an increasingly important responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. Both sides agreed to play a constructive role in regional affairs, promoting the positive interaction between the two militaries in this region. We also agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under Asia Pacific multilateral security dialogues, mechanisms, and frameworks. China will participate in the Ring of Pacific exercise in 2014, as invited.

Fourthly, we're in agreement that the two militaries share wide common interests and foundation for cooperation in nontraditional security areas. We both agreed to further enhance exchanges and cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, anti-piracy, and peacekeeping. We both confirmed to conduct the first China-U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise with active force in Hawaii this November. We also agreed to have an exploratory discussion on logistics issues in support of nontraditional security missions later this year.

Fifthly, we both agreed to further deepen military archives cooperation, setting up a military archives cooperation mechanism in which both sides can build upon the existing cooperation of the PLA assist in U.S. to search those missing in actions and strengthen a two-way exchange of related military archives and materials.

At present, the China-U.S. relationship is in a new historical era. Building a new model of China-U.S. military relationship can help us to increase strategic trust to reduce strategic risks and to maintain world peace and regional stability. China is ready to work with the U.S. to seriously implemented our presidents' important consensus, to -- to raise our military-to-military relationship to a new height by strengthening our dialogue, communication, and practical cooperation, and by properly handle our disputes and differences.

Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Thanks.

GEORGE LITTLE: We'll now move to questions. There will be two per side. And we'll pause for translation after each question. And we'll start with Bob Burns of the Associated Press.

Q: Thank you. General Chang, a question for you. The U.S. has spoken quite a lot recently about pivoting to Asia. I'm wondering if you see justification for a larger U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific. Do you see evidence of that yet? And do you think it's helpful or harmful that the U.S. is trying to increase its influence in the region?

A question for Secretary Hagel on Egypt, in light of the violence there in recent days. You had quite a series of contacts with General Al-Sisi in recent days. Given what transpired over the last several days, do you feel that your message fell on deaf ears? And also, what's the way ahead, in your view? Do you need to cut off military-to-military relations? Do you stop arms transfers? And do you -- are you concerned about the safety of U.S. military personnel in the Sinai, where there's been a lot of violence lately? Thank you.

GEN. CHANG (through translator): Regarding the U.S.-Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy, I would like to first make a point by quoting the chairman of the People's Republic of China. President Xi used to say that the Pacific is wide enough to accommodate both two great countries, China and United States.

It's always the Chinese position to welcome the U.S. to play a constructive role in the Asia Pacific. And we also noted the U.S. statement many times, that the U.S. rebalancing strategy is a comprehensive one, incorporating areas such as economics and social and also including military.

It is also worth to be noted that certain Asia Pacific nations have noted that the military aspect has been highlighted in this comprehensive strategy, including to strengthen the military deployment in the region, enhancing the U.S. alignments in this region by conducting military cooperations and military -- joint military exercises.

We also noticed that the frequency and intensity of such kind of joint military exercises are increasing upon the recent time. From certain degree, this kind of intensified military activities further complicated the situation in the region.

China is a peace-loving nation. And we hope that this strategy does not target a specific country in the region. And the development of China is not only conducive to our own country, to the entire region, but also to United States. Being together with all the Asia Pacific countries, regional countries, including United States, it is a common aspiration of all of the countries that we wish to have peace in the region. Therefore, it is our hope that this rebalancing strategy is a constructive one that could help the peace and stability in the region.

And on the other hand, we would like to have this rebalancing strategy balanced on different countries, as well, because the essence of rebalancing is -- is balance. It would be a -- it would be a balancing strategy if such kind of factors are taken into consideration. What is the most important is China is ready to work with the United States to maintain the regional peace and stability.

Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Bob, yes, I have had many phone calls with General Al-Sisi over the last five weeks, but so has all of our national security team been involved in working with the Egyptians on dealing with this -- this issue. I say that because we've all consistently framed the same message.

As President Obama said last week, the violence must end, national emergency lifted. The interim government of Egypt must get back to an inclusive approach to reconciliation in Egypt. All of us have consistently said that.

The United States has a longstanding relationship with Egypt that's based on our respect for the people of Egypt, the country of Egypt. We have interests, clearly, in the Middle East, interests that include hopefully a development of some progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. So we continue to work with the Egyptian interim government, as well as the Egyptian military.

Yes, we are concerned about our people, Americans, all Americans in Egypt. Protection of Americans in Egypt, not just only our diplomats, but all Americans, is of the highest priority. And we all -- all the American government officials, including American military, have been working very closely with the Egyptian military and police to assure the security and protection of Americans in Egypt, and we'll continue to do that.

Q: Are you concerning reducing that -- the peacekeeping force?

SEC. HAGEL: As President Obama has said, we're reviewing every aspect of our relationship with Egypt. Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): Now Xinhua News Agency, please.

Q (through translator): My question goes to General Chang. General Chang, you just mentioned for many times about the meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Obama and that the two presidents agreed to build a new model of bilateral relationship. And at the same time, President Xi proposed to build a new model of military relationship in accordance to the new model bilateral relationship. So my question is, what is actually the concept of this new model of military relationship?

GEN. CHANG (through translator): Thank you for your question. As we all know that President Xi summarized in three points the new model of this major country relationship between China and the United States, no confrontation, no antagonism, and respect each other towards win-win cooperation.

We believe as a new model of military relationship in accordance with the new model of bilateral relations, there are some is and some isn't in this concept. Firstly, it is a relationship in which both sides respect the other side. It is not a relationship dominated by either side alone.

Both sides respect the others' vital interests and major concerns, pay attention to the others' comfort level, not forcefully imposing one's will onto the other, or not gaining one's own interests at the expense of interests of the other.

Secondly, it is a relationship of cooperation and win-win. It is not a relationship of zero-sum game or antagonism. Both sides work hard to expand our mutual interests and areas of cooperation to take measures to effectively manage our fractions and risks towards the ultimate goal of cooperation and win-win to avoid the recidivist trap.

Thirdly, it's a relationship of mutual trust. It is not a relationship of mutual suspicion. Both sides view each other's strategic intention in objective manner to push forward those mechanisms that help mutual trust to refrain from words and actions that could pose negative effect upon mutual trust, not to make unwarranted accusations and to reduce misperception and miscalculations.

Fourthly, it is a relationship featuring exchanges and cooperation in many areas. It is not a relationship that is imbalanced and only focused on few areas for cooperation. A healthy and mature military-to-military relationship should be a comprehensive one, instead of an imbalanced one. In order to build a new model of military relationship, we need more substantive exchanges in wider areas and more practical cooperation in more diversified forms.

Finally, it is a relationship of openness and inclusiveness. It is not a relationship of exclusiveness or selfishness. While working to ensure the stability of China-U.S. relationship, it is imperative to work with other international community members to strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation, to maintain strategic balance and stability of the world, and in particular of Asia Pacific region.

I'm not sure if I've made my point clear or not. Thank you.

MR. LITTLE: We'll turn now to Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News.

(LAUGHTER)

Q: It easily translates. For General Chang, you spoke today of mutual trust, yet there are persistent reports that the Chinese government and military have launched cyber attacks against U.S. government targets and interests. What -- what is your response to those reports?

And given the fact that this cyber working group has been put together, what steps are the Chinese willing to take to restore the kind of faith and confidence between the Chinese and the U.S. on that front and reduce the potential threat for any cyber warfare?

And for you, Mr. Secretary, despite the persistent pleas from the U.S. government, your own personal efforts, the bloodshed today in Egypt continues. In what appears to be a further blow to democracy, there are reports the government is prepared to release the convicted former president Hosni Mubarak from prison and additional reports that the Saudis have pledged to make up any shortfalls that the Egyptians may run into if the U.S. cuts back any further aid.

And -- and one housekeeping measure. Is the U.S. prepared to cancel or at least postpone the shipment of Apache attack helicopters to Egypt?

GEN. CHANG (through translator): Actually, complete -- trying to complete our extra missions regarding answering questions. As we all know that cyber is a completely new domain, and cyber security has been a worldwide difficulty.

It is always the Chinese government's position to take peaceful use of cyberspace. We oppose of having any kind of arms race in the cyber domain, and we oppose of taking use of information and technology to conduct any kind of operation and hostility towards another party in the cyber domain. And we oppose of taking advantage of the information -- the technological advantage to weaken other parties' sovereign control in this -- in this domain. And we are opposed of taking any kind of double standard in this domain.

China is one of the primary victims from hacker attacks in the world. We are faced to severe threats coming from those cyber attacks. The Chinese government consistently oppose and cracks down the cyber crimes according to our laws. And the Chinese military has never supported any form of hacker activities.

Regarding how to solve the cyber security issue, I believe it requires the common exploration and cooperation between China and United States, rather than ungrounded accusation or suspicion. I believe that Secretary Hagel touched upon this issue in his -- in his remarks that we will work to cooperate to try to solve this issue.

Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Jim, three parts to the question. I don't know about a Mubarak report. I'm not aware of it. I can't help you.

Saudi Arabia. As you know, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait announced a couple weeks ago that they committed to a considerable amount of assistance to Egypt. The specifics of your question regarding Saudi Arabia, I -- I don't know about those specifics.

Your question regarding cancellation of Apache helicopters or other parts, as I said to Bob, we're reviewing all aspects of our relationship.

Q: But given all that, Mr. Secretary, is the U.S. powerless to effect any change, to bring an end to the bloodshed in Egypt right now And why not answer the calls from Capitol Hill in particular now, just pull all the aid out, if they're not cooperating or don't appear to be cooperating at any level?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, there's not a consistent call from Capitol Hill one way or the other, as you know, on this issue. But more to the point, we have serious interests in Egypt and that part of the world. This is a very complicated problem. We continue to work with all the parties to try to help as much as we can facilitate a reconciliation, a stop of the violence.

Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited. It's up to the Egyptian people. And they are a large, great, sovereign nation. And it will be their responsibility to sort -- to sort this out. All nations are limited in their influence in another nation's internal issues. I don't think the United States is without influence, but that has to be a collaborative effort focused on what the Egyptian people want, supporting the Egyptian people. And we believe, as I've said, the president's said, Secretary Kerry has said, Ambassador Patterson, Deputy Secretary of State Burns, that should come as an inclusive, open, democratic process, allowing all people to have a role in the future of their country. Thank you.

TRANSLATOR: Do want that translated, sir, for the benefit of the Chinese minister?

SEC. HAGEL: He did that exactly right.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you. I didn't realize I spoke that long. I'm sorry, Jim.

(UNKNOWN) (through translator): Now last question from (inaudible)

Q (through translator): I have two questions respectively for General Chang and Secretary Hagel. For General Chang, how do you see the current Asia Pacific security situation? And how do you see the interaction between PLA and the U.S. military in the Asia Pacific?

And to Secretary Hagel, would you like to elaborate a little bit on how -- what substantive steps should the U.S. take in building such kind of new model of relationship?

GEN. CHANG (through translator): I understand our friends from the -- press friends' concern about the Asia Pacific security situation. It is also one of our major concerns, because the regional security situation is closely linked to the overall peace and stability -- stability in the world.

And I have several points to make. Firstly, the current situation in Asia Pacific is generally stable, but there remains some hot spots and sensitive issues. Some hot issues are heating, while some other sensitive issues are getting more even sensitive. Improper handling of these issues could lead to a severe impact on the overall security situation in the region.

Secondly, the Chinese people always have their love on peace. China always is a staunch defender of the peace and stability in the Asia Pacific. We always insist that related disputes be solved through dialogue and negotiation. However, no one should fantasize that China would barter away our core interests. And no one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territory, sovereignty, and maritime rights.

Thirdly, the Asia Pacific is our common homeland. Nations big or small, strong or weak, should make positive and constructive efforts for promoting regional peace and stability. Any action that leads to trouble or provocation, any action -- unwanted action out of the self-interest or further complicates or magnifies the situation would be highly irresponsible and will not lead to a favorable result.

And as just as I mentioned before, that we believe peace is the essence of Pacific, which means the Ocean of Peace in Chinese, or the essence of rebalance is balance. For any country to make a strategic readjustment, it is imperative to take regional peace and stability in mind and is important to balance the security concerns of different -- different regional countries.

The Asia Pacific is a region where the interests of China and United States intertwine the most and where China and United States interact most frequently. The two countries enjoy huge space and potential for cooperation in this region. The People's Liberation Army is ready to work with the U.S. military by strengthening our communication, coordination, and cooperation to pay more concerted contribution to the regional peace, stability, and prosperity. Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: As to your question regarding new models for our two countries, specifically military-to-military relationships, let me begin this way. I think it's fundamental to the efforts that are underway, as General Chang and I have both noted, and President Xi and President Obama noted, to develop relationships, avenues of opportunity for transparency, for understanding each other's intentions far better than we have in the past.

To carry forward the facilitation of those efforts require institutions, institutions of common interests, like what General Chang talked about this morning in his opening statement, as well as some of the specific items that I addressed, working groups for every general area of challenge, senior-level leadership exchanges, which I noted a number in my remarks, as did General Chang, those are the forms that you build in order to address the great challenges and issues and differences between our countries. And that's what we're doing.

Thank you.

GEN. CHANG (through translator): Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you all.

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, everyone.