BEIJING, Aug. 15, 2017 —
The top military leaders of the United States and China signed an agreement here today that they said will improve communication between their militaries and reduce the chances of miscalculations.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Fang Fenghui of the Chinese army, chief of China's joint staff, signed the joint strategic dialogue mechanism at the Ba Yi, the People's Liberation Army headquarters. Dunford is visiting China to further military-to-military ties between the two Pacific powers.
The agreement is intended for crisis mitigation, U.S. Joint Staff officials said, noting that direct communication at the three-star level in the Pentagon and the Ba Yi will "enable us to communicate to reduce the risk of miscalculation." Army Lt. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy, will lead the effort for the American military. The first meeting to set up the framework is set for November.
These communications are especially crucial now, as the region and world are facing the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea, officials said.
The joint strategic dialogue mechanism grew out of diplomatic and security talks in Washington earlier this year. Those talks grew out of a Florida meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.
The mechanism is a concrete result of the military-to-military discussions the chairman is engaged in. Dunford will spend three days in China and will visit PLA units training, Fang said.
"To be honest, we have many difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspectives," Dunford said at the opening of the military-to-military talks. "But from the meeting we had in Washington, D.C., and the meeting we just had, I know we share one thing: we share a commitment to work through these difficulties. With the guidance from our presidents and the areas of our cooperation, I know we will make progress over the next few days."
Need for Candor
But the two countries must make tangible progress, the chairman said. "As we start these meetings, having the framework for dealing with these difficult issues is different than making progress on them," he said. "I think our collective challenge is to sincerely and with candor attack these issues that we have to address."
The military-to-military contacts between the United States and China are important because there will always be some friction between the two countries, Dunford said, adding that military contacts will lessen the chances of a miscalculation.
The chairman stressed that lessening miscalculation is "the minimum standard" for military-to-military contacts. "We should also try to see areas to cooperate," he said.