Cablegate: U.S.-China Security Dialogue: Meeting with Deputy Chief of the General Staff Ltgen Ma Xiaotian, June 5, 2008
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/12/2033
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SUBJECT: U.S.-CHINA SECURITY DIALOGUE: MEETING WITH DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF LTGEN MA XIAOTIAN, JUNE 5, 2008
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) In a June 5 meeting at the Ministry of National Defense with Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Rood, PRC Deputy Chief of the General Staff Department Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian summarized the People's Liberation Army's major arms control and nonproliferation activities as evidence of China's desire to increase transparency and build cooperation with the United States. He criticized the United States on arms sales to Taiwan, missile defense and U.S. Congressional and media portrayals of China. Acting Under Secretary Rood underscored both the U.S. desire to understand the changes in China's strategic forces and the importance of transparency to help both sides avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation. He cautioned that lack of transparency is not a strategic advantage, but rather a potential source of tension.
2.(C) LTG Ma agreed on the importance of communication to increase confidence and mutual trust. He acknowledged that China is a fast-growing power in the Asian region, but stressed that the PRC's military development supports peace and stability and should not be viewed as a threat. Ma said China's deterrent forces are solely for use against "those who plan deterrence against China." LTG Ma described the United States and China as neither allies nor adversaries and added that the two countries could become partners and eventually friends. He called China's nuclear forces an "imperative reality," and said there is no limit to the technical progress China could make in this area. LTG Ma cited China's bi-annual defense white paper as evidence that the PRC is continuously increasing military transparency, but asserted that China will not change its transparency policy that has served China well for decades. Acting U/S Rood reminded LTG Ma that the United States does not view China as an enemy. While welcoming China's steps toward increased transparency, the United States also urges that China's military transparency policy keep pace with its rapid and dramatic material changes. End Summary.
Evolving U.S.-PRC Military Relationship ---------------------------------------
3.(C) LTG Ma stated that visits such as those of Acting Under Secretary Rood, Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte, and Under Secretary of Defense Edelman in the Defense Consultative Talks framework, are important steps in the evolving U.S.-China military relationship. Acting U/S Rood agreed and also offered condolences regarding the damage and loss caused by the earthquake in Sichuan Province. LTG Ma offered his sincere thanks to the United States for its recent humanitarian assistance, citing the U.S. military airlift of needed supplies to Chengdu and USD 770,000 in emergency funds. LTG Ma noted his discussion with PACOM Commander ADM Keating on the airlift operation and asked that his sincere thanks be passed to the U.S. Department of Defense.
China's Support of Arms Control and Nonproliferation --------------------------------------------- --------
4.(C) LTG Ma stressed the importance of finding common ground in arms control and nonproliferation. China strictly adheres to international treaties, and any arms shipped are solely defensive. He stated that the PLA cooperates with the Chinese MFA and other Chinese agencies in implementing arms control and nonprolifration regulations. LTG Ma cited several examples of China's arms control and nonproliferation accomplishments, including China's implementation of new procedures for eleven Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) monitoring stations along the PRC border, its strict adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), willingness to permit the inspection of multiple Chinese units, implementation of awareness education and China's participation in global de-mining efforts through its provision of equipment and training courses to foreign military personnel.
5.(C) LTG Ma said that China has adopted a "stringent" examination and approval mechanism for proliferation BEIJING 00002305 002 OF 003 regulations and export controls that follows three principles. Any Chinese weapons sale 1) must assist a country's legitimate defense, 2) must not undermine regional and world peace and security, and 3) must not interfere in the internal affairs of recipient countries.
Transparency to Avoid Misunderstanding --------------------------------------
6.(C) Acting U/S Rood stated that threats have changed over the past few years and the United States is adapting to these changes. U/S Rood cited Iran, Syria, North Korea and terrorism as focus areas in U.S. defense doctrine. It is important and beneficial to share how we see the world and to properly manage disagreements. Acting U/S Rood praised ongoing strategic cooperation with China, citing North Korea as an example. The United States and China should continue to build mutual trust and transparency to prevent misunderstanding. In this light, the United States wishes to learn more about China's strategic intentions. Acting U/S Rood noted significant U.S. concerns about China's ASAT orientation and its increasing nuclear stockpiles, particularly at a time when other nuclear countries are reducing their arsenals. He noted that while some claim a lack of transparency is a strategic advantage, the reality is just the opposite. In the absence of clarity, misunderstandings can occur, and the United States could assign motives to Chinese actions that might not be accurate. Noting that transparency regarding Taiwan is beneficial to both countries, Acting U/S Rood explained that China may think an action is de-escalatory while the United States may interpret the same action differently.
Fundamental Mutual Trust a Pre-Condition ----------------------------------------
7.(C) LTG Ma agreed that it is necessary to "speak and listen" to increase understanding. However, he said, "fundamental mutual trust" is a pre-condition for confidence, which leads in turn to mutual understanding. The PRC is rapidly growing, and the PLA's military development can either be viewed as a peaceful stabilizing force or a threat. LTG Ma believes it is not proper for the United States to approach current bilateral challenges the same way it viewed the "historical East-West Cold War." The PRC observes this negative attitude in statements by the U.S. Congress. He complained about U.S. press coverage of the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, noting that although he and Secretary Gates spoke separately, the press reported the two speeches as though they were a heated debate.
8.(C) LTG Ma described the United States and China as neither allies nor adversaries, but added that the two countries could become partners and eventually friends. He called China's nuclear forces an "imperative reality" and said there should be no limit on technical progress. China's "No First Use" policy is unique in the world, yet the PRC is still labeled as one of "seven targets" for a nuclear strike by the United States. LTG Ma said China "faced direct and straightforward nuclear threats from its northern neighbor" in past years. The United States and Russia may be reducing the number of nuclear weapons, but they are increasing the technical capabilities of their weapons. Blurring the line between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons could have "tremendous" consequences on the battlefield. LTG Ma complained that the United States is developing "clean nuclear weapons and dirty conventional weapons or depleted uranium bombs." He criticized the United States specifically for the Minot AFB nuclear over-flight incident and the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of nuclear missile components, and accused the United States of conducting anti-satellite (ASAT) research. He described the U.S. missile defense system as being both offensive and defensive in nature, since it includes lasers that attack a missile in launch phase over the sovereign territory of the launching country.
Unequal Transparency --------------------
9.(C) LTG Ma cited the PLA's bi-annual defense white paper as evidence that the PRC is continuously increasing military transparency, but asserted that it is impossible for the PRC to change its decades-old way of doing business to become transparent using the U.S. model. He complained that U.S. BEIJING 00002305 003 OF 003 visitors get greater access when touring PRC naval ships than the United States allows China. He noted that trends on Taiwan are positive, but argued that the United States is increasing its military relationship with Taiwan, including participating in Taiwan's Yushan exercise. He also mentioned potential F-16C/D sales to Taiwan as sending the wrong message. LTG Ma urged Acting U/S Rood to take the necessary practical steps to stabilize this situation to the benefit of both countries.
Avoiding Potential Problems ---------------------------
10.(C) Acting U/S Rood responded that a security dialogue is a positive mechanism even if the respective messages are not necessarily welcome. The United States does not regard China as an enemy. Increasing transparency is in everyone's interest. He raised PRC harassment of U.S. naval vessels operating in China's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and urged the PRC to avoid dangerous tactics and procedures that could lead to accidents, and to discuss these operational matters with the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). LTG Ma responded that these could be taken up during the next visits by PACOM Commander ADM Keating and the Guangzhou Military Region Commander.
11.(U) Participants: UNITED STATES Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John C. Rood Michael Allen, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counter-proliferation Strategy, NSC John Hill, Principal Director for East Asian Security Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense Rich Davison, Principal Director for Strategic Capabilities, Office of the Secretary of Defense Tim Katsapis, Senior Advisor to U/S Rood Captain Thomas Mangold, Acting Defense Attache Lt Colonel Jeffrey Louie, Defense Attache Office (notetaker) James Brown, Interpreter PRC Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of Staff, General Staff Department, Ministry of National Defense Major General Qian Lihua, Director of Foreign Affairs Office, MND Li Song, Deputy Director General, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shen Jian, Deputy Section Chief of Arms Control Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA Major Cheng Kai, Interpreter, MND
12.(U) Acting U/S Rood cleared this message.