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U.S. and Taiwan (2008)

United States Pacific Command

Admiral Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Navy
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Press Roundtable
Beijing, China

January 15, 2008

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Question: Hi, with NPR.

Did you get any sense from your talks of any nervousness about the upcoming election and referendum in Taiwan?

And I'm also wondering what you think, there's a new book out by Bernard Cole about China's military that gives the assessment that the balance of power in the Taiwan Straits has turned in China's favor. What's your assessment of that? Do you agree? Thank you.

Admiral Keating: Thanks for your question. We did spend some time in a couple of our discussions yesterday afternoon discussing Taiwan writ large, the elections, somewhat more narrow. Our position was, is and will be, as was expressed in 1979, and this was a theme we emphasized yesterday. Our country's position is constant on China/Taiwan. There is one China.

We at the United States Pacific Command are particularly interested in whatever elements could be viewed as destabilizing. We pay close attention to developments on both sides of the strait and all throughout the Asia Pacific region. That may go to the second part of your question. We're watching carefully the development of Chinese military capabilities. That's another reason for our visit, is to express our interest, in fact our requirement for transparency with the Chinese military. So we hope in furthering the bonds of trust and friendship and exchanging personnel we can understand better their military development. And to put it another way, if we don't see what it is they're developing, we may tend to assume a little more serious or potentially destabilizing military capability.

So I'm not familiar with the book, but writ large we are paying close attention to the development of China's military capability.

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Question: Admiral, I'm [Chung Haijo] from China Daily.

My question is although the exchanges between Beijing and Washington are growing constantly, signs of conflict such as the U.S. arms deal with Taiwan is still there. How [inaudible].

Admiral Keating: Say the last thing again.

Question: Something just like the [inaudible] of conflicts, such as the U.S. arms deal with Taiwan is still there. So how do you comment on these?

Admiral Keating: In my mind it's pretty -- I'm just a simple sailor. Our country's policy hasn't waivered one iota since 1979. There is but one China.

We at Pacific Command are very very interested, vitally interested, in ensuring stability all throughout the region including on both sides of the strait. We will watch carefully and evaluate any elements that we see as destabilizing. We will bring those two to the attention of the Secretary of Defense, and we do that. Some of them are fairly significant, some of them aren't such a big deal. But through it all there is the overarching desire for stability across the strait.

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Question: Good morning, Admiral. From China Central Television.

I'd like to go back to the Kitty Hawk incident. My question is why did the U.S. choose to come across the Taiwan Strait even after they canceled the mission from the Chinese side? What was the thinking behind that? What was the message drawn from both sides?

Admiral Keating: We don't need China's permission to go through the Taiwan Straits. It's international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose as we have done repeatedly in the past and we'll do in the future. As it happens, the weather was pretty crummy on the leeward side of Taiwan, and so the commander made an appropriate decision, requested permission, was given permission to transit the Taiwan Strait, and we'll do that whenever we need to.

Let me rephrase that. Whenever we choose to.

Question: Bob Seiger with AFP.

Admiral Keating: I'm sorry. We don't want to be confrontational about this. I understand that China is going to go hey, what are you doing there? Well, we'll explain. And that goes to transparency. If they have a question, ask. We're going to tell them the truth. So we request that sort of healthy, robust dialogue in the case of a denial of a port visit request. It's pretty straightforward. Yes or no, and here's why. We're going to transit the Taiwan Strait. As it happens, the weather's crummy on the other side so we're going to go through international water. And if it's of interest to them, we'll be happy to discuss it.

Question: AFP.

In the last three presidential elections in Taiwan the tensions have gone up in the Taiwan Strait. I wonder if you had any sense with your meetings that after Saturday's legislative elections that they have come to a more relaxed understanding that the situation might not be as tense as in the previous elections, or was there any feeling that they were satisfied with the results of those elections?

Admiral Keating: The results of the elections did come up in one of our conversations yesterday afternoon. There was a certain, I'll use a Washington, D.C. term, a certain "spin" to it being applied by our Chinese host in the conversation. For those of us in Pacific Command the elections results are what they are. Once again, we haven't deviated one iota from our 1979 policy and we will see how this unfolds with an overarching concern for the stability across the Strait.

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Question: I'm Vin Si Hua.

I wonder if there is a war breaks out in 2008, this year, across the Strait, what the United States will do. Thank you.

Admiral Keating: Let me be so bold as to turn it around a little bit. The reason we are here, the Pacific Command, our fundamental goal is to make sure the situation you described does not happen. We are making every effort, and not just unilateral. Bilateral and multilateral with all the countries in our area of responsibility, over 40, to make sure to the very best of our ability that there is not conflict, that there is better understanding, that there is better communication, that there is collaboration and cooperation against the entire spectrum of military operations. An example of which, Jim Roy, our senior enlisted leader, is here to have discussions about having senior Chinese enlisted come to the United States or other countries in our AOR so as to develop this understanding and a much better feel for the individuals involved, for the strategy of our particular countries. And Jim had discussions on that very topic and I'd like to ask him to elaborate just a little bit.

CMS Roy: I met with Deputy General Senior Colonel Wu yesterday for NCO Affairs. We had a very healthy discussion, very lively discussion on our military NCOs and the Chinese military NCOs. We would like to continue that dialogue at various levels, obviously. As the Admiral stated, we'd like to continue that dialogue at a more tactical level, if you will, that being the NCOs, the senior NCOs, to continue with the trust, the credibility amongst the two professional military organizations.

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