RUSSIA REMAINS REGRESSIVE AT HOME AND ABROAD: CAN PUTIN EVER LEARN?

Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

With news that conflict in Ukraine has increased with Russian troops and their insurgent rebels still trying to make brutal advances, in Moscow Putin remains in a state of denial about the Russian economy and gloates over his assumed “victories”. With this, one must wonder what world Putin is living in and will there ever be a revelation of reality and desire to do good for the Russian people?

At home Russia may be in a mini recession of 2% and seems on a trajectory for more drops in its GDP in the coming months.  The Ruble has increased some and oil which also has increased slightly seems to be hitting a plateau but still far from its high, but the long range fundamental economic condition of Russia seems very bleak especially for the majority of average Russian citizens.

On the international stage, Russia has announced the “sale” of ballistic defense systems to Iran.

The offer of the Russian S-300 missile defense system to Iran remains problematic. While it may not be an immediate delivery, as a Russian Foreign Ministry official said on April 23rd, it “is not a matter of the nearest future,” according to Haaretz.  The TASS official news agency reported Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying “It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken.”  Putin also made overtures to a dangerous North Korea.

In the cyber area, Russian hackers also broke into unclassified networks at the Department of Defense earlier this year, Pentagon Secretary Ashton Carter said on April 23rd. No real surprises there, however an indicator of hostile intent.

NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general, said on Thursday that it is seeing a “substantial Russian buildup,” along the border with and inside Ukraine. This is violating the Minsk cease-fire agreement and again shows that Russia still is using misinformation and lies as a tool of its diplomacy and propaganda strategy. In the long-run this will undermine Russia’s believability and, when at another time, it will need creditability it will have been lost.  There will be a point, as in Soviet times, when respect at home and abroad is imperiled. Already the outflow of funds indicates that this has already taken place.

The West needs badly a new and serious reassessment of Russian actions and strategy, but it can’t be a kneed-jerk reaction, or an overreaction. It needs to be rather a rational consideration of the dangers from an aggressive Russia and a long-term strategy of turning the relationship around to more productive and safer conditions as we did in the old “cold war.” Then firmness, restraint and engagement worked. One of the best ways to react would be to start a set of strategies within NATO, EU, G-7 and the OECD countries of a growth and productivity strategy rather than the conservative and failed “austerity” programs that have slowed growth, caused large unemployment, and created instability in key countries.

We need to stop the fights within our open society communities and start to jointly move rapidly to increased employment of the “middle and poorer” majority, improving our own infrastructure both physically and intellectually, become fairer, and start to cooperate on the many global challenges that threaten to set asunder our societies and our globe. President Obama has tried to do this, Europe remains divided over Greece, growth, immigration and beset by racist right-wing parties that threaten democracy and progress. These need to be addressed and addressed with vigor and in common. Then, Russia as a regressive nation with a backward looking regime might see a real future in cooperation with a growing and robust West and act in its own interest.

 

We welcome your comments!    

 

LOOKING TOWARDS AND BEYOND 2015: THE HARD STRATEGY AND DECISIONS IN A DETERIORATING WORLD

President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.
President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

In a world that increasingly seems bent on self-destruction, bad governance, and self-inflicted wounds, there is clearly an urgent need to, as they say, “get a grip” on things!  As President Obama has said, none of these problems are easy; they will take a long time to deal with and they can’t be done by just one nation. Nor can they be addressed by just doing nothing. The key is, as Obama again said, is “not to do stupid things”, and needless to say do intelligent things and do them well and do them with other like minded nations whenever possible. This means first of all examining with care our values and our real interest, the cost and practicality of possible options, and not least the probability of success and any unforeseen consequences; what some would call “blowback.”

The last Bush administration did none of this and this administration has learned hopefully that lessen of “not doing stupid things.” That does not mean withdrawing from the world, but it may mean forcefully responding to a crisis when necessary and practical. But what are the elements that either make good policy and strategy and what are the harsh constraints in devising good strategy and properly implementing it, and with others, in a true multilateral coalition?

First, one domestic constraint on an effective American role in addressing global challenges is our corrosive political landscape, which is too often driven by hate, ignorance, stupidity, and partisan politics and not by good values or the national interest. The right wing neo-con hawks have criticized Obama for “leading from behind”. This pejorative statement is simply partisan from those who got us into an unnecessary war at great cost to our nation, the lives of brave men and woman in the armed forces, and our embassy staff. Now they are looking at pushing a unilateral unnecessary war with Iran and seem to be fomenting a  crude “cold war” strategy and creating implacable enemies out of China and Russia. Sadly, some of this is to increase mindlessly the DOD budget on behalf of the military-industrial sector and to push narrow ideological and myopic interests.

This is not the way to make smart strategic and foreign policy decisions. It has already hurt our global role as Congress debates the coming budget and pushes restrictions on the president’s ability to conduct his foreign policies as this is written.

Second, external constraints were partly covered in our earlier post and several are looked at below and others will follow in this series. In our last look at forward strategy, we tried to take a “macro” perspective and asked: “did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?” Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.”  Another installment will be looking forward into 2015 and beyond, would be aimed specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy.

THE CHANGING GLOBAL AND STRATEGIC AND LANDSCAPE AND THE DECLINE OF GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ADDRESS OUR REAL AND COMING RISKS

There are many reasons why governments and international organizations seem increasingly incapable of addressing and mitigating our global challenges and high-risk dangers. Not least, as we have noted, is the growing indifference of many nations including in the United States to the plight of the most at risk and vulnerable. The recent global recession had a deep impact on the reaction of citizens who have a growing sense of hopelessness.  Encouraged in the United States  by right-wing Republicans, their billionaire backers, and their paid for media and pundits, have long pushed for disdain of role of government and international organizations in serving the well-being of common citizens in need.  These forces drove public opinion against sufficient support for preemptive action to address major dangers to national security and global stability and humanitarian crises. This means that organizations like UNESCO, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, World Health Organization, World Food Program, NATO, World Bank, and the UN system as a whole including the Security Council, are under funded and restricted by member states from taking effective action to address oncoming risks and conflicts. If this trend continues, the risk to American security and to the global system’s ability to address and mitigate serious major threats will continue to deteriorate and risks and costs will grow and not diminish. We need a new look on how to make these international institutions more effective and forward looking.  

TOP LEVEL THREATS: PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND DESTABILIZED REGIONS AND NATIONS 

Despite all the headlines about terrorism, the far greater risk to U.S. and global security at the existential level are weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue or unstable and confrontational nations. This includes Russia under the unpredictable President Putin and Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons; nations both of which are in conflict with each other. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is led by an unpredictable leader, and the possibility of an Iran with nuclear weapons in a region of ubiquitous conflict and instability. Each of these problematic centers will remain well into 2015  and beyond and need a much higher level of attention by all global actors than has been seen hereto through by all nations and especially among some in Congress who seem to think “war” is the answer to every issue.  I suggest to our readers to look at the post of Secretary Kerry’s Geneva press conference for an insight into this problem with a focus on Iran and beyond.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES TOP LEVEL THREATS

As President Obama has made clear there is no more important crisis the globe faces that climate change and its consequences.  Many members of the Republican Congress do not think it exists, or do not think that it is caused by human activities, and even encourage energy sources that are among the worst polluters. This roadblock needs to be overcome with an enlightened global leadership, and the environmental community and citizens need to act. This is what the president had done by domestic legal regulations and international agreements that do not require Senate ratification. The agreement with China, the trip to India with this as a key topic, and with efforts to at last forge a global consensus on a broad range of climate impacting actions indicates some useful progress. More is still needed.  I think 2015 and 2016 will see major moves abroad with our allies on this issue while opposition by Republicans will persist.  

GLOBAL POVERTY, CIVIL UNREST, POPULATION MOVEMENTS AND GROWING COMMUNAL AND REGIONAL WARS AND TERRORISM

There is little question that America and the rest of the world will increasingly be impacted by the larger forces we have already seen arising. Frankly, they are at a cost of our past indifference to what is happening beyond our borders. Few paid attention to these forces; many of our leaders and our citizens and especially our corrupted media are giving more space and time to what the last stupid celebrity did, diverting our people from facing serious issues and solutions.

Terrorism is just one result of indifference by governments, powerful elites, and business to a larger social responsibility.  It will not go away overnight but it can be mitigated and in part overcome. The primary action needed is to give jobs to those that live in hopelessness and despair. The other is to fight the ideology of hate and those that use terrorism to achieve their aims.  Here the answer is not just military. Often here is where diplomacy and collective political and economic action can and should mitigate the conditions that breed conflict and narrow nationalism or racial hate. 

Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, much of the conflict-ridden Middle East and many parts of Africa need greater help than has so far been given. If we do not recognize this we will be over whelmed over time by several results: more conflict, an increased spread of diseases, greater poverty, and humanitarian and natural disasters and in the end a high risk world for all.

THE SO-CALLED RISE OF MAJOR “NEW” ACTORS ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE

A lot has been written about the rise of “new” powers like China, India, and, for some, Russia.  This concept is often joined by the so-called “decline” of America and Europe. Frankly, this has both a part of truth but also a lot of nonsense.  Yes, India and China are growing but each has still deep-seated weaknesses, which will undermine their inherent potential for decades due not least to the large inequality that exists and social, racial, and ethnic divisions within each society. For Russia, despite all the aggressive and destructive actions, it is a state of concealed but deep crisis and decline that seems, under Putin, to reject modernity or even rationality and has destroyed its citizens meaningful participation in their collective decisions. This can’t last in the present equilibrium that is unstable over the long run. Putin is an historical tragedy for Russia at this time.  But the West and the rest of the world need a strategy to draw Russia over time into a community of cooperating and responsible states and we should never give up this goal. 

Some European leaders recognize this, but the silly forces on the right seem to think unneeded war with a nuclear-armed irrational nation is a bit of a lark. In 2015, Obama seems to know this and is struggling to find the right balance of restraint and prevention of aggression and the “inducement” of diplomacy, economic gain, and cooperation. We are likely to see more of this but Ukraine is the testing ground for both sides in 2015 and beyond and the only “good” solution requires Ukraine to remain a viable independent and unified state that can choose its destiny in the long run.

More on specific challenges will come in future posts and a look a creating a more effective international structure and the ability to foresee earlier coming dangers and respond.  

We welcome your comments!

DEFENSE BUDGET (NEW ONE IN THE WORKS, MAYBE) AND PERHAPS A REAL, MODERN, FORWARD LOOKING DEFENSE POSTURE?

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DEFENSE BUDGET (NEW ONE IN THE WORKS, MAYBE) AND PERHAPS A REAL, MODERN, FORWARD LOOKING DEFENSE POSTURE?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Revealed on Monday February 24th was the defense budget for FY 2015, and the headlines were about the cuts to manpower mostly in the army. Yet, the most important questions of what ought to be our major objectives, an examination of the global security landscape, and finally, the right tools to employ has been given too little attention. Continue reading

Sequester and National Security: Will We Ever Learn?

National_Security_Agency_sealBattleships and other assets at sea, Air Force planes overseas, Marines on land and sea, and not least, diplomats abroad, many in dangerous posts, trying to ensure peace and security, American interests and our citizen’s well-being, along with aid workers helping to save children in danger and distress; you all now have less to work with in a still dangerous and unpredictable world. 

For the Department of State does it mean less security at Embassies? The Republicans in Congress were all over the administration about the attacks on Benghazi, but happy it seems, to put our entire diplomatic missions at threat because of possible cuts in security, intelligence gathering, and other security related programs? Hypocrisy by the crazy GOP in Congress is on high, at the cost of endangering our service people and diplomats abroad. So much for real moral acts and responsibility!

For the Department of defense it means a cut of some $46 billion and some 9.4% in FY 2013, but really an average of 13% excluding the protected military pay, over the next seven months. It also means likely unpaid furloughs for as many as 800,000 civilian workers due to no fault of their own.  Also delayed are deployments of our forces and a decreased maintenance on ships, planes and armor. Many experts think that this kind of cut is possible in our over funded military budget, but this is NOT the way to do it…….a scalpel to unneeded programs yes, not a meat clever to all despite their importance or need. As the Financial Times said today, “It is hardly an ideal moment to become a US defense secretary.”  Its editorial headline included the comment: “Chuck Hagel’s biggest problem will be Congress,” and I would concur with this insight. The FT calls for Congress to give discretion over where the cuts fall. To this I concur.

Congress left town yesterday and will hold an uneventful White House meeting after House Speaker Boehner made it clear that there would be no compromise on raising revenues. His Tea Party base was very happy to see the draconian cuts to our national security, diplomatic, and discretionary domestic budget that helps our poor and unemployed, so that the rich could enjoy their wealth even more fully.

In a larger perspective, it hurts our national security. This silly action by the Republicans has made both our friends and allies as well as our competitors and opponents wonder about our resilience, wisdom, and commitment. This is NOT good. At the moment when Secretary Kerry is trying abroad to solve or, at least improve numerous challenges in “danger” spots and to confront very intractable conflicts many, which require added resources, when there is much less in our “tool box” and less respect for our word and leadership, even while the U.S. undertakes new initiatives to solve, with our allies and friends, the key issues of the day.

Finally, the impact on domestic growth, unemployment, investment in science and technology, health care, and infrastructure will impact the fundamental basis of our national security, especially if the sequester continues for more than a few weeks.  So, hold your hats and reflect on the meaning of all of this.  

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Cyberspace: The New Battlefield

In the entire world, there is no one more reliant on cyber tech than the United States.  The United States rely on things like SCADA systems (the “Power Grids”) to run our country. But because of this, the United States has more to lose from an offensive cyber attack on our country more than anyone else in the world.

Leon Panetta has discussed this in his speech in New York:

But the even greater danger facing us in cyberspace goes beyond crime and harassment…A cyber-attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11. Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.

Protecting Your Computer is an American Duty

Cyber warfare is a completely difficult battlefield than anyone is used to. In a cyber war, every citizen is involved.  A country can hack its way from the bottom. For instance, it can hack your local computer you’re using now, network to your neighbor’s computer that is networked to a business computer, which is networked to a corporate computer that networks to Washington.  As soon as their “hacking foot” is in the door, the hack can spread anywhere.

What would a Cyber Attack even look like? How bad can it actually be?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano answered this after the tragic events of Hurricane Sandy.  She stated,

“One of the possible areas of attack, of course, is attacks on our nation’s control systems — the control systems that operate our utilities, our water plants, our pipelines, our financial institutions. If you think that a critical systems attack that takes down a utility even for a few hours is not serious, just look at what is happening now that Mother Nature has taken out those utilities.”

Legality

We’ve spoken about defense, but what about the United States using the cyber field offensively? How does the United States deploy cyber? Who’s going to do it? What are the special rules of engagement in this battlefield?

Unfortunately, nobody knows this yet.  Even in the case where a country cyber attacks a company, the CEO must call the “local” police first.  The local police then send the report up the ladder until someone can figure out what to do. There are few procedures. No outlines. The question that must then be posed is if they do act, how far can the D.O.D. act in the private domestic IT sector? Should this be something for Congress, the media, and the public to debate?

Either way, the ball is rolling. The Department of Defense has an established cyber-security department that provides policy reports and related information concerning cyber-security.

In August, Congressman Lieberman presented a cyber-security bill that would have set security standards for companies that provide “critical infrastructure” like electricity and water. The bill was blocked 52-46.  In September, Lieberman urged President Obama to publish advisory lines for a cyber-security executive order. In November, President Obama did the next best thing. He signed the Cybersecurity Directive. As of now, the directive has been kept secret, but those close to the White House have stated

“[It would] finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyber-attack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.

Most recently, Auburn University officially opened its Cyber and Security Center at the Auburn Regional Airport that is to be led by retired Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess “to lead the university’s cyber initiative.”

So what exactly does the next generation face? This is a question General BB Bell, a retired General who now serves on the Defense Advisory Committee asked to a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

He followed it up by stating,

“We have the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Is it crazy to think that someday we may need to create a Cyber Command branch? I don’t [personally] know, but somebody better start figuring it out.”

How do you feel about the future of Cyber Security? What actions do you believe the United States should take?  Share your thoughts!

China’s Military Capability and America’s Response

Just in time for the Congressional consideration of the Department of Defense’s budget for 2012 and the pending decision by the Administration of the 2013 budget submission to OMB and the White House, the DOD has come out with its report on China’s military capability.  Surprise, surprise, they think China may be a danger to American military might!

Note, I might add, that the American military budget is ten times that of the next ten nations combined that include France, Great Britain, and all of our NATO allies.  Nor does that include the rest of our “allies” in both Europe and Asia like Japan and South Korea.   The report says that China is “closing key gaps” and increasing its military spending.  The conclusion is that China is building toward a 2020 goal of a modern war machine that could threaten stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Pentagon says. They are rebuilding on old foreign aircraft carrier and hope to start another of their own. The first does not even have planes on it and is still in sea trials.   There is indeed reason for some concern about China’s military activities and forces, but they are not “Nine Feet Tall” as the Pentagon often portrayed the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which we learned was not true. The Chinese military is to be watched and it would be foolhardy not to ensure that we continued to watch its advances, but it is a very long way from having any capability of overtaking our own and our allies’ defense establishments, including in Asia for many decades. Even more dangerous would be to start an arms race that would give an excuse for the Chinese military to demand even more resources and greater control over foreign and national security policy.

In fact in many ways, the report noted a number of qualifiers that acknowledged the limited capabilities and reach of the Chinese military.

From a broader perspective of American long-term national security and foreign policy interests, we would be better off working on a long-term dialogue about military and defense issues with the Chinese to seek an agreement about a cooperative and mutually transparent approach to military issues and relationships rather than see both sides engage in dangerous “saber rattling.” We did this  cooperative approach over time with the old Soviet Union and now with Russia –with much success for both.

In many ways it is not surprising that China is building up its military, which in many areas remains behind that of the more advanced countries in technology, sophistication, and long-range capability. But China can have no interest in a military confrontation with the U.S.  Their economy is in large part based on their ability to sell their goods to the U.S. and other advanced countries allied with us. Their raw materials come from countries that are allied with us and would be cut off in the case of any conflict. In short, it would be disastrous for China to “build to use” as against simply as a statement of their global interests and increased power.  Confrontation with our friends in Asia by ill-judged military forays would only drive these countries into more formal military cooperation and alliances with us, which China would not want.  The Chinese leadership knows this and probably much of its military leadership does as well. Expect, however, the “usual suspects” of the greedy “military industrial complex” to make use of the report to defend and increase the DOD budget and to push for many more largely unneeded weapons systems…especially for the Air Force and Navy.  We do need more capable military forces but that should be via better trained and supported forces aimed at terrorism and regional conflicts, where such advanced and expensive systems have very limited roles to play if any and take scarce resources away from real threats and conflict preventive capabilities and mobility, which are needed on the ground.    

We welcome your comments!

By Harry C. Blaney III.

DOD Press Briefing on the 2011 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense released its annual report to Congress titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, gave a press briefing on the report.  The report, which can be read in full here, highlights the increased spending and modernization of forces within the Chinese military and analyzes how these developments might influence regional security developments and US national security.   Below readers will find the full transcript of his speech.  Stay tuned for Harry Blaney’s commentary on the release of this report and feel free to post comments below!

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Presenter: Michael Schiffer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia

August 24, 2011


 

DOD Press Briefing on the 2011 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

MICHAEL SCHIFFER:  Good afternoon, everybody.  For those of you that I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself yet to, I’m Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia. And I’m here this afternoon to talk to you all about the “Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” that we delivered up to Capitol Hill today.

I’ll offer a few broad thoughts on the report, a couple of — couple of points about the administration’s overall approach to China and then walk you through in some degree of detail — hopefully, not too painful — what’s in the report this year, and then we’ll have time for whatever questions you may have.

The report, as many of you know, is a report from the secretary of defense transmitted to Congress, but it is a report that we coordinate broadly across the — across the interagency and across the entire U.S. Government, so that even though it is a DOD report, it does reflect the views and perspectives that are held broadly by the U.S. Government.

We very much intend this report to be something that is factual, objective and analytical to provide inputs and information for policymakers both in the legislative and the executive branch to consider as they contemplate the development of U.S. policy and the bilateral relationship between the United States and China.

This year’s report contains new information on a number of topics, including new sections on China’s evolving maritime strategy and its growing military involvement and engagement with other countries. 

Let me first, as I said, offer a couple of general comments on U.S.-China relations and then the overview of the report itself.

As you know from statements that numerous senior U.S. Government officials have made, the United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that contributes to international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both in the Asia-Pacific Region and around the globe.  The United States is pursuing a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China capable of addressing common global challenges and advancing our shared interests.

China‘s expanding military capabilities have enabled it to contribute to the delivery of international public goods, from peacekeeping and counter-piracy to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  However, the pace and scope of China’s sustained military investments have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.

Such capabilities could increase Beijing’s options for using military force to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests or resolve military disputes — resolve disputes in its — in its favor.

And this very much speaks to the — to the logic that we see for sustained and reliable military-to-military dialogue and military security dialogue between the United States and China so that we are able to gain the sort of transparency and strategic understanding that’s necessary to forge that positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.

And in fact, in many ways I might suggest that the report can best be read not simply as a piece of analysis but really as the sets of questions and issues that we would like to be able to engage in dialogue and discussion with our Chinese counterparts about.  These are the questions and the issues that we think that it’s important for us to be able to understand; we know our Chinese friends have questions for and about us; and that’s the sort of dialogue and discussion that we welcome and that we think contributes to regional and global security and stability.

Over the next decade from 2011 to 2020, we believe that there will be a number of critical elements in play as we look at Chinese military modernization as the PLA attempts to integrate a number of new and complex platforms that they’ve developed and to adopt modern operational concepts, including joint operations and network-centric warfare.  Indeed, as the report discusses, there are a number of new Chinese platforms and weapons systems that have reached maturity in recent years and others that we believe will soon become operational.  And these are — these are new systems that are on par with or exceed global standards.

But these efforts to integrate across systems and platforms will be a key — a key marker in China’s continued military modernization efforts going forward.

We believe that the PLA continues to be on track to achieve its goal of building a modern, regionally focused military by 2020. However, China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance today remains limited.

As many of you know, as many of you reported, on August 10th of this year, China commenced sea trials with the Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier that it purchased from the Ukraine in 1998.  Our report, which was written and coordinated before this development, conveyed our expectation that sea trials would commence this year.

The aircraft carrier could become operationally available to China’s navy by the end of 2012, we assess, but without aircraft.  It will take a number of additional years for an air group to achieve the sort of minimal level of combat capability aboard the carrier that will be necessary for them to start to operate from the carrier itself.

China continues to invest heavily in undersea warfare with a mixture of nuclear and conventionally powered submarines.  This is complemented by China’s investment in new surface combatants designed to improve the PLA navy’s capabilities for anti-surface and anti-air warfare.  The PLA has now completed construction of a major naval base on Hainan Island.  And this base, we assess, is large enough to accommodate a mix of ballistic missiles, submarines and large surface combatants, including aircraft carriers.

China also continues to invest heavily in air capabilities, including modern aircraft and long-range advanced surface-to-air missile systems.  This past January — again, as many of you reported — China conducted a flight test of the next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, which highlighted China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and supercruise-capable engines.

China‘s also investing heavily in an array of space programs. China conducted a national record of 15 space launches in 2010, which includes both civilian and military systems.

Turning away from force development and to another issue that I know is of interest to you all, and that’s cross-strait relations, as the report assesses, in the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural field, cross-strait relations have continued to improve over the past couple of years.  But despite this political warning — warming, China’s military shows no signs of slowing its effort to prepare for a cross-strait contingency.  In addition to planning for Taiwan contingencies, China places a high priority on asserting and strengthening its maritime territorial claims.  An increased PLA naval presence in the region, including surface, subsurface and airborne platforms and possibly one or more of China’s future aircraft carriers, would provide the PLA with an enhanced extended-range power projection capability, with all the implications for regional rivalries and power dynamics that that implies.

The PLA has also in recent years demonstrated the capability to conduct limited peacetime deployments of modern forces outside Asia. This includes multiple counterpiracy deployments to the Gulf of Aden and increasing participation in international humanitarian and disaster release — relief efforts.  Investments in large amphibious ships, a new hospital ship, long-range transport aircraft and improved logistics have made these sorts of missions a practical reality.

These types of peacetime operations provide the PLA with a valuable operational experience and also serve PRC diplomatic objectives.

China‘s comprehensive military modernization efforts are supported by robust increases in government funding.  On March 4th of this year Beijing announced a 12.7 percent increase in its military budget, and that continues more than two decades of sustained budgetary growth. 

The PLA has also made some modest but incremental improvements in transparency in recent years, but there are a number of uncertainties that remain.  We will continue, and we do continue, to encourage China to improve transparency and openness, to act in ways that support and strengthen common political, economic and diplomatic interests of the — of the region and of the international community.

The complexity of the global security environment as well as the advances in China’s military capabilities and its expanding military operations and missions calls for continuous military-to-military dialogue between our two defense and security establishments.  This is a dialogue that we believe can help us to expand practical cooperation where our national interests converge and also provide us the ability and the opportunity to discuss candidly those areas where we may have disagreements.  Such dialogue, such engagements we believe is especially important during periods of friction and turbulence in the — in the bilateral relationship.

During their January 2011 summit, President Obama and PRC President Hu Jintao jointly affirmed that a healthy, stable, and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of the shared vision for a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship.  We believe — and we will continue to use military engagement with China as one of several means to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, to encourage China to play a constructive role in the region and to press China to partner with the United States and our Asian allies and partners in addressing common security challenges.

So let me just wrap up by offering that we hope that the report, which we think has a lot of very interesting and useful — we hope has a lot of very interesting and useful information and analysis in it, will contribute in a responsible fashion to the many debates that are ongoing with respect to the military dimension of China’s military modernization.

And with that, let me turn to your — turn to your questions.

Q:  You said at the beginning that the Chinese military buildup was destabilizing, and then you went through a whole long list of what the Chinese have done.  Can you specifically say which part of that buildup is — you consider destabilizing, which aspects that you referred to?

MR. SCHIFFER:  I think I said that it was potentially destabilizing.  And that speaks, again, to the importance of being able to have, not just between the United States and China but between China and the other countries of the region, deep, sustained, continuous and reliable discussions and engagement between our military and security establishments so that we can better understand China’s intentions, China’s thinking and approach, and so that they can better understand ours. 

I think absent that, and given the lack of transparency that — even with the improvements that I cited, that still persists, that’s where you have the potential to run into situations where there may be misunderstandings or miscalculations, where you would have the potential for anxiety driving a destabilizing dynamic.

Q:  So just — so it’s not the actual buildup of the stealth fighter or the aircraft carrier, it’s the fact that the Chinese — the potentially destabilizing aspect of this is the Chinese are not transparent enough and talking enough. 

(Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER:  Well, I think it’s a — it’s a — it’s a combination of that lack of — the lack of understanding that’s coming out — that has been created by the opacity of their system.  

But I mean, it is also because there are very real questions, given the overall trends and trajectory in the scope and the scale of China’s military modernization efforts.  I wouldn’t put — I wouldn’t put it on any one particular platform or any one particular system. There’s nothing particularly magical about any one particular item. But when you put together the entirety of what we’ve witnessed over the past several decades and, you know, we see these trend lines continuing off into the future, that raises — that raises questions. And as I said, again, that’s why we think that it’s important to be able to have the sorts of dialogues and discussions that will allow us to understand each other better and will help to contribute to regional stability.

Q:  I mean, for years the report has addressed the same trend in the Taiwan Strait, that the military balance has shifted to China’s favor.  In this report, is there, you know, a tipping point that we are anticipating, like in 2020 Taiwan will lose its superiority or the, you know, quality advantage?

And the second question is that when General Chen Bingde is here — was here in Washington, he mentioned that there was no missile pointing at China across — according to Taiwan, across the strait.  I don’t know from this report, you know, what’s U.S. — you know, estimate or evaluation.

MR. SCHIFFER:  I would offer that I don’t think there is a — there’s not a particular tipping point, which I know may come as something of a disappointment as one thinks about how to construct the perfect newspaper headline.

But there are trends, as the report points to, that continue to be — you know, that continue to point to a very challenging military and security environment across the strait.  That is a set of issues that we’re committed to working with — working with Taiwan to address, committed to meeting our commitments under the — under the Taiwan Relations Act, in the context of the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués to assure that Taiwan has the self-defense capabilities that it needs.  And that is something that obviously continues to be a concern of the — of the Department of Defense and, indeed, the entire U.S. Government.

I will let General Chen try to clarify or characterize his own comments and what he intended and what he meant.

Please.

Q:  You mentioned — from Reuters — you mentioned aircraft carriers in your spoken presentation as well.  And it’s touched on in the report.  There have been reports since the period (of the compilation that China has indeed begun building its own indigenous carriers.  Can you comment on those reports at all?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We do think that China is undertaking an effort to build its own indigenous aircraft carriers.  And our expectations — and again, this is addressed in the report — are that we will see Chinese indigenous aircraft carriers.  I won’t speculate on the number, but likely more than one being developed in the — in the future.

Yes.

Q:  Did you share this report with the Chinese government or embassy?  And if so, what was your message to them?

And did the Pakistanis show the helicopter tail that was left behind during the bin Laden raid to the Chinese?  Did they — were they able to obtain any information about stealth technology from that?

MR. SCHIFFER:  So far the report has been briefed to Congress, and now, of course, our second-most — possibly most important audience, which is you all.  We have a number of engagements with a range of people in the diplomatic community both here in the United States and overseas planned over the next several days to provide briefings on the report.  You’ll excuse me if I will take a pass on going into any details on any of the messages that we’ll be delivering in any of those — in any of those discussions.

I will also take a pass because — for all the reasons that you know and not comment on the Pakistan issue and the helicopter tail.

Yeah, Tony.

Q:  On the F-16s — you know, it’s a hot-button issue — is there anything in this report that you feel, as a professional political-military student of Chinese capability, buttresses the case for additional non-stealthy F-16s to Taiwan?

MR. SCHIFFER:  Luckily, I’m not a professional military student of Chinese capabilities, so, you know, that gives me a pass on your question.

Q:  (Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER:  (Chuckles.)  Look, you know, there’s no question — I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody — that it is a very challenging security environment across the strait.  But I would point out that it is a very challenging security environment across the strait — and the report discuses this in some level of detail — across a number of different dimensions.  And we are working very, very closely with Taiwan, as we have for many, many years now across administrations of both political parties, to make sure that they have the self-defense capabilities that they need.  And we will continue to do so.

Q:  Can I ask you one quick one?  Has the Pentagon rejected a new sale of F-16s?  Have they — have you recommended rejecting a sale of new F-16s?  There’s been reports out of the region to that effect.

MR. SCHIFFER:  I know that there have been reports out of the region to that effect, yes.

Q:  Can you answer the — whether — the status of the issue? Have you made a recommendation to the White House saying, we don’t — we don’t recommend a new sale?

MR. SCHIFFER:  I will simply offer that there have been no decisions that have been made on arms sales to Taiwan.  But as I said before, I mean, this is an issue that we continue to work — in my office, we work with this question on a daily basis.  And consistent with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States will provide to Taiwan the self-defense capabilities that it requires.

Q:  Would you — would you see a possible contradiction should the — your department or the U.S. Government decide later on that F- 16C/Ds would not be sold to Taiwan on one hand; on the other hand, the report has — you know, it’s featured in the report that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait is, you know, continuing to move in — to the advantage of China?  Do you see a potential contradiction there?  Are you concerned?

MR. SCHIFFER:  As I said earlier, there — this is a challenging security environment.  It’s a challenging security environment across a number of different dimensions, not just one and not just a security environment where — to take the tipping point question and turn it around, where there is some, you know, silver bullet that will all of a sudden change everything.  We are committed to working, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, with Taiwan, and consistent with the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués, to make sure that Taiwan has the self-defense capabilities that it needs across a range of — a range of dimensions.

Kevin, I can —

Q:  Mike, can you — can you detail, beyond the visits by Gates and Mullen, any military exchanges going on between the U.S. and China in the interest of transparency?  And in the case of the aircraft carrier sea trials, will — was there any type of notification or action between the two — your two sides for that, you know, first high-profile event since these big visits have, you know, made those pledges to be more transparent?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We — I mean, we’ve engaged with the PLA in a number of working-level discussions and meetings over the — over the course of the year, and I’d be happy to make sure that we can provide you or anybody else that’s interested with the full list.  But since Secretary Gates went in January of this year, we had defense policy coordination talks, which are held at my level.  We’ve had a working group meeting of the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement.  Just last week there were a number of people from my team here in the Pentagon and the Joint Staff that were in Beijing having working-level discussions about transparency and a number of other related issues. So there has been a fair amount of stuff that’s been — that’s been going on at the — at the working level even as we’ve also had these senior-level contacts.

The one other thing that I would point to is that, as many of you may know, we had established at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue this year a new joint civil-military dialogue, something that Secretary Gates had called for when he was in China in January, to allow us to discuss sensitive security issues, those things that might be most troubling for stability in the bilateral relationship in a setting that brings together both civilian and military leaders on both sides at a — at a fairly senior level.

That’s not strictly a mil-mil engagement, but that does speak to our efforts to institutionalize and regularize and deepen these sorts of dialogues and discussions with the People’s Republic of China.

Yeah.

Q:  Where does cyber capability fit into the matrix of China’s developing capabilities that you call potentially destabilizing?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We have some analysis of where we think the Chinese are going in the cyber realm and — in the report, and I guess I should do the commercial here that says that, you know, this is really a report — and I say this with all sincerity — that we really do like to allow to speak for itself, because there’s a lot of — a lot of very good stuff in here.  And so, I’d recommend that you sort of dive into the report to pull out some of that analysis. 

But you know, it’s no secret, again, that, you know, cyber is a realm where deeper engagement between the United States and China, so that we can work on common rules of the road and a common way forward, is necessary.  You know, we have — we have some concerns about some of the things that we’ve seen, and we want to be able to work through that with China.

Yeah.

Q:  (Inaudible) — this is a report that’s subject to a lengthy interagency review, but it was also due in March.  Could you give us any more insight as to why it took so many months to actually produce this?  Were there any sticking points in the internal discussions about this?

MR. SCHIFFER:  There were no — you know, I realize a good conspiracy is, you know, a lot more fun than just sort the simple banal truth of bureaucracies grinding away on a — on a daily basis. You know, this is a very, very complex and important set of issues, as I — as I know you all appreciate. 

To turn out a good product, and to turn out a good product that we were able to coordinate across the U.S. Government, because we think that it benefits greatly from that sort of coordination, simply — simply took time.  I, you know, wish that it didn’t, wish we had been able to turn it out — to turn it out quicker, but I think the results, when you have the chance to read through the report, speak to — speak to the benefits of taking that time to really — to really turn out a product that — that I think — and I don’t just say this because I’m paid to say it — but that I think really has a lot of very, very good, cogent content and analysis.

In the back.

Q:  I didn’t see any discussion of China’s holding of American debt.  And I’m curious how you see these fiscal issues play into the larger security picture between the U.S. and China.

MR. SCHIFFER:  That — those sorts of issues aren’t included in this report because that is, at least as our current congressional mandate — reads a little bit outside the scope of the report and, frankly, outside the scope or the expertise of the Department of Defense.  I mean, I’ll simply say that this is obviously an extraordinarily complex economic relationship that — that we have with China and an extraordinarily complex relationship that — that creates challenges on both sides.  And I know that that’s receiving a lot of extraordinarily high-level attention from both our leadership, including Vice President Biden on his — on his trip the other week, and from China’s leadership.

Q:  You mentioned some of the humanitarian and disaster-relief kind of work the Chinese navy is engaged in.

How great of an emphasis do you see them placing on those sort of operations?  Do you see it as a — as almost as great of an emphasis as the U.S. has placed on it, or do you see it just kind of staying as a side mission for them?

MR. SCHIFFER:  China’s still, you know, in the relatively early stages of engaging fully in the region and with the international community as a provider of those sorts of goods and services.  But as I said, I mean, this is something that we view as a — as a positive development.  And we want to encourage China to join with — to join with the United States and our other allies and partners in the region and around the globe in providing those sorts of capabilities and those sorts of assets.  I mean, a China that helps to respond to the threats of piracy, a China that helps to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief needs, and that is playing that sort of positive and constructive role in global affairs.  I mean, that’s — that’s a very good thing for the United States, that’s a very good thing for the region, that’s a very good thing for the world.

Q:  And to follow up, is — are they interested in kind of the same regions that the U.S. are?  Is there some divergence there?

MR. SCHIFFER:  There — I mean, this is a question, frankly, that, you know, you should address to — you know, address to folks on the Chinese side to get a better sense of their current thinking.  But they’re — you know, they’re still, as I said, in the relatively early stages of developing their own thinking as to how they’re going out into the world and conduct these operations.  Although, I would point out that I think they have something like close to 18,000 folks that have participated in peacekeeping operations, you know, in recent years, which is a sizeable contribution and that’s — you know, and a number of different peacekeeping missions.

Yeah, in the very back row there.

Q:  The aircraft carrier, just coming back to that:  How big a deal is that?  And can that development be seen in a positive light — (inaudible)?

MR. SCHIFFER:  You know, I think this is something that as I — as I said, doesn’t come as any surprise to us. 

I mean, this was a development that the Chinese have been — have been working on for — for a number of years, and it’s not at all, you know, out of character or, you know, out of — out of the norm of the sorts of development given — you know, given the trajectory of China’s military modernization efforts over the past — over the past couple decades. 

Whether or not this proves to be a — you know, a net plus for the region or for the globe or proves to be something that has destabilizing effects and raises blood pressure in various regional capitals I think remains to be seen; and again, not to sound like a broken record, but underscores the importance of being able to have those dialogues that allow us to reach greater strategic understanding and aim for a — for a degree of strategic trust, not just between the United States and China, but China and its other neighbors as well.

COL LAPAN:  (Off mic) We have time for one or two more.

MR. SCHIFFER:  OK.

Q:  You’ve been — there’s been a lot of discussion of the carrier, but the report also talks a great deal about the other naval capabilities the Chinese have been developing.  What kind of capabilities in here do you find most noteworthy or most troubling or most of concern?

MR. SCHIFFER:  Again, you know, there’s no single capability that I find to be, you know, either most noteworthy or most troubling or most of concern.  It is the overall trajectory of China’s military modernization efforts and the fact that they are, you know, working across a number of different dimensions of power in the maritime domain that is — that is something that I think we need to keep an eye on, need to assure that we in turn have the — have the capabilities in place to safeguard our national security interests, need to work with our allies and partners on their — on their capacities and their capabilities and, again, need to engage with China so that we can have a better and deeper understanding of how we’re both — how we’re each approaching issues in the naval and in the maritime domain.

We can have one last question.

Q:  If past years are any guide, China will generally react angrily to the release of this report.  It seems like they resent the enterprise itself, let alone the contents.  Is China mistaken in thinking of this report as a hostile act towards China?  And in your own mil-mil dealings, have you ever received more nuanced feedback from Chinese counterparts on this report?

MR. SCHIFFER:  My expectations, like yours, is that, you know, our Chinese friends will very likely have some critical comments to say about the issuance of this report.  As we’ve tried to explain to them in our military-to-military engagements, I mean, the report can be read, and I hope that they do look at it as, an encapsulation of the sorts of questions and the sorts of issues that we have questions about, that we would like to be able to engage in discussion and dialogue with them on; and that it’s our sense that if we are able to have that sort of robust, reliable, continuous military-to-military dialogue, that that will lead to a more positive relationship between the United States and China and will help contribute to regional stability and security.

So thank you all very much.  I hope that was — hope that was helpful.

Presenter: Michael Schiffer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia August 24, 2011

DOD Press Briefing on the 2011 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

Go to http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_CMPR_Final.pdf to view the 2011 Report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

MICHAEL SCHIFFER:  Good afternoon, everybody.  For those of you that I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself yet to, I’m Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia. And I’m here this afternoon to talk to you all about the “Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” that we delivered up to Capitol Hill today.

I’ll offer a few broad thoughts on the report, a couple of — couple of points about the administration’s overall approach to China and then walk you through in some degree of detail — hopefully, not too painful — what’s in the report this year, and then we’ll have time for whatever questions you may have.

The report, as many of you know, is a report from the secretary of defense transmitted to Congress, but it is a report that we coordinate broadly across the — across the interagency and across the entire U.S. Government, so that even though it is a DOD report, it does reflect the views and perspectives that are held broadly by the U.S. Government.

We very much intend this report to be something that is factual, objective and analytical to provide inputs and information for policymakers both in the legislative and the executive branch to consider as they contemplate the development of U.S. policy and the bilateral relationship between the United States and China.

This year’s report contains new information on a number of topics, including new sections on China’s evolving maritime strategy and its growing military involvement and engagement with other countries.

Let me first, as I said, offer a couple of general comments on U.S.-China relations and then the overview of the report itself.

As you know from statements that numerous senior U.S. Government officials have made, the United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that contributes to international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both in the Asia-Pacific Region and around the globe.  The United States is pursuing a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China capable of addressing common global challenges and advancing our shared interests.

China’s expanding military capabilities have enabled it to contribute to the delivery of international public goods, from peacekeeping and counter-piracy to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  However, the pace and scope of China’s sustained military investments have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.

Such capabilities could increase Beijing’s options for using military force to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests or resolve military disputes — resolve disputes in its — in its favor.

And this very much speaks to the — to the logic that we see for sustained and reliable military-to-military dialogue and military security dialogue between the United States and China so that we are able to gain the sort of transparency and strategic understanding that’s necessary to forge that positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.

And in fact, in many ways I might suggest that the report can best be read not simply as a piece of analysis but really as the sets of questions and issues that we would like to be able to engage in dialogue and discussion with our Chinese counterparts about.  These are the questions and the issues that we think that it’s important for us to be able to understand; we know our Chinese friends have questions for and about us; and that’s the sort of dialogue and discussion that we welcome and that we think contributes to regional and global security and stability.

Over the next decade from 2011 to 2020, we believe that there will be a number of critical elements in play as we look at Chinese military modernization as the PLA attempts to integrate a number of new and complex platforms that they’ve developed and to adopt modern operational concepts, including joint operations and network-centric warfare.  Indeed, as the report discusses, there are a number of new Chinese platforms and weapons systems that have reached maturity in recent years and others that we believe will soon become operational.  And these are — these are new systems that are on par with or exceed global standards.

But these efforts to integrate across systems and platforms will be a key — a key marker in China’s continued military modernization efforts going forward.

We believe that the PLA continues to be on track to achieve its goal of building a modern, regionally focused military by 2020. However, China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance today remains limited.

As many of you know, as many of you reported, on August 10th of this year, China commenced sea trials with the Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier that it purchased from the Ukraine in 1998.  Our report, which was written and coordinated before this development, conveyed our expectation that sea trials would commence this year.

The aircraft carrier could become operationally available to China’s navy by the end of 2012, we assess, but without aircraft.  It will take a number of additional years for an air group to achieve the sort of minimal level of combat capability aboard the carrier that will be necessary for them to start to operate from the carrier itself.

China continues to invest heavily in undersea warfare with a mixture of nuclear and conventionally powered submarines.  This is complemented by China’s investment in new surface combatants designed to improve the PLA navy’s capabilities for anti-surface and anti-air warfare.  The PLA has now completed construction of a major naval base on Hainan Island.  And this base, we assess, is large enough to accommodate a mix of ballistic missiles, submarines and large surface combatants, including aircraft carriers.

China also continues to invest heavily in air capabilities, including modern aircraft and long-range advanced surface-to-air missile systems.  This past January — again, as many of you reported — China conducted a flight test of the next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, which highlighted China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and supercruise-capable engines.

China’s also investing heavily in an array of space programs. China conducted a national record of 15 space launches in 2010, which includes both civilian and military systems.

Turning away from force development and to another issue that I know is of interest to you all, and that’s cross-strait relations, as the report assesses, in the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural field, cross-strait relations have continued to improve over the past couple of years.  But despite this political warning — warming, China’s military shows no signs of slowing its effort to prepare for a cross-strait contingency.  In addition to planning for Taiwan contingencies, China places a high priority on asserting and strengthening its maritime territorial claims.  An increased PLA naval presence in the region, including surface, subsurface and airborne platforms and possibly one or more of China’s future aircraft carriers, would provide the PLA with an enhanced extended-range power projection capability, with all the implications for regional rivalries and power dynamics that that implies.

The PLA has also in recent years demonstrated the capability to conduct limited peacetime deployments of modern forces outside Asia. This includes multiple counterpiracy deployments to the Gulf of Aden and increasing participation in international humanitarian and disaster release — relief efforts.  Investments in large amphibious ships, a new hospital ship, long-range transport aircraft and improved logistics have made these sorts of missions a practical reality.

These types of peacetime operations provide the PLA with a valuable operational experience and also serve PRC diplomatic objectives.

China’s comprehensive military modernization efforts are supported by robust increases in government funding.  On March 4th of this year Beijing announced a 12.7 percent increase in its military budget, and that continues more than two decades of sustained budgetary growth.

The PLA has also made some modest but incremental improvements in transparency in recent years, but there are a number of uncertainties that remain.  We will continue, and we do continue, to encourage China to improve transparency and openness, to act in ways that support and strengthen common political, economic and diplomatic interests of the — of the region and of the international community.

The complexity of the global security environment as well as the advances in China’s military capabilities and its expanding military operations and missions calls for continuous military-to-military dialogue between our two defense and security establishments.  This is a dialogue that we believe can help us to expand practical cooperation where our national interests converge and also provide us the ability and the opportunity to discuss candidly those areas where we may have disagreements.  Such dialogue, such engagements we believe is especially important during periods of friction and turbulence in the — in the bilateral relationship.

During their January 2011 summit, President Obama and PRC President Hu Jintao jointly affirmed that a healthy, stable, and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of the shared vision for a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship.  We believe — and we will continue to use military engagement with China as one of several means to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, to encourage China to play a constructive role in the region and to press China to partner with the United States and our Asian allies and partners in addressing common security challenges.

So let me just wrap up by offering that we hope that the report, which we think has a lot of very interesting and useful — we hope has a lot of very interesting and useful information and analysis in it, will contribute in a responsible fashion to the many debates that are ongoing with respect to the military dimension of China’s military modernization.

And with that, let me turn to your — turn to your questions.

Q:  You said at the beginning that the Chinese military buildup was destabilizing, and then you went through a whole long list of what the Chinese have done.  Can you specifically say which part of that buildup is — you consider destabilizing, which aspects that you referred to?

MR. SCHIFFER:  I think I said that it was potentially destabilizing.  And that speaks, again, to the importance of being able to have, not just between the United States and China but between China and the other countries of the region, deep, sustained, continuous and reliable discussions and engagement between our military and security establishments so that we can better understand China’s intentions, China’s thinking and approach, and so that they can better understand ours.

I think absent that, and given the lack of transparency that — even with the improvements that I cited, that still persists, that’s where you have the potential to run into situations where there may be misunderstandings or miscalculations, where you would have the potential for anxiety driving a destabilizing dynamic.

Q:  So just — so it’s not the actual buildup of the stealth fighter or the aircraft carrier, it’s the fact that the Chinese — the potentially destabilizing aspect of this is the Chinese are not transparent enough and talking enough.

(Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER:  Well, I think it’s a — it’s a — it’s a combination of that lack of — the lack of understanding that’s coming out — that has been created by the opacity of their system.

But I mean, it is also because there are very real questions, given the overall trends and trajectory in the scope and the scale of China’s military modernization efforts.  I wouldn’t put — I wouldn’t put it on any one particular platform or any one particular system. There’s nothing particularly magical about any one particular item. But when you put together the entirety of what we’ve witnessed over the past several decades and, you know, we see these trend lines continuing off into the future, that raises — that raises questions. And as I said, again, that’s why we think that it’s important to be able to have the sorts of dialogues and discussions that will allow us to understand each other better and will help to contribute to regional stability.

Q:  I mean, for years the report has addressed the same trend in the Taiwan Strait, that the military balance has shifted to China’s favor.  In this report, is there, you know, a tipping point that we are anticipating, like in 2020 Taiwan will lose its superiority or the, you know, quality advantage?

And the second question is that when General Chen Bingde is here — was here in Washington, he mentioned that there was no missile pointing at China across — according to Taiwan, across the strait.  I don’t know from this report, you know, what’s U.S. — you know, estimate or evaluation.

MR. SCHIFFER:  I would offer that I don’t think there is a — there’s not a particular tipping point, which I know may come as something of a disappointment as one thinks about how to construct the perfect newspaper headline.

But there are trends, as the report points to, that continue to be — you know, that continue to point to a very challenging military and security environment across the strait.  That is a set of issues that we’re committed to working with — working with Taiwan to address, committed to meeting our commitments under the — under the Taiwan Relations Act, in the context of the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués to assure that Taiwan has the self-defense capabilities that it needs.  And that is something that obviously continues to be a concern of the — of the Department of Defense and, indeed, the entire U.S. Government.

I will let General Chen try to clarify or characterize his own comments and what he intended and what he meant.

Please.

Q:  You mentioned — from Reuters — you mentioned aircraft carriers in your spoken presentation as well.  And it’s touched on in the report.  There have been reports since the period (of the compilation that China has indeed begun building its own indigenous carriers.  Can you comment on those reports at all?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We do think that China is undertaking an effort to build its own indigenous aircraft carriers.  And our expectations — and again, this is addressed in the report — are that we will see Chinese indigenous aircraft carriers.  I won’t speculate on the number, but likely more than one being developed in the — in the future.

Yes.

Q:  Did you share this report with the Chinese government or embassy?  And if so, what was your message to them?

And did the Pakistanis show the helicopter tail that was left behind during the bin Laden raid to the Chinese?  Did they — were they able to obtain any information about stealth technology from that?

MR. SCHIFFER:  So far the report has been briefed to Congress, and now, of course, our second-most — possibly most important audience, which is you all.  We have a number of engagements with a range of people in the diplomatic community both here in the United States and overseas planned over the next several days to provide briefings on the report.  You’ll excuse me if I will take a pass on going into any details on any of the messages that we’ll be delivering in any of those — in any of those discussions.

I will also take a pass because — for all the reasons that you know and not comment on the Pakistan issue and the helicopter tail.

Yeah, Tony.

Q:  On the F-16s — you know, it’s a hot-button issue — is there anything in this report that you feel, as a professional political-military student of Chinese capability, buttresses the case for additional non-stealthy F-16s to Taiwan?

MR. SCHIFFER:  Luckily, I’m not a professional military student of Chinese capabilities, so, you know, that gives me a pass on your question.

Q:  (Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER:  (Chuckles.)  Look, you know, there’s no question — I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody — that it is a very challenging security environment across the strait.  But I would point out that it is a very challenging security environment across the strait — and the report discuses this in some level of detail — across a number of different dimensions.  And we are working very, very closely with Taiwan, as we have for many, many years now across administrations of both political parties, to make sure that they have the self-defense capabilities that they need.  And we will continue to do so.

Q:  Can I ask you one quick one?  Has the Pentagon rejected a new sale of F-16s?  Have they — have you recommended rejecting a sale of new F-16s?  There’s been reports out of the region to that effect.

MR. SCHIFFER:  I know that there have been reports out of the region to that effect, yes.

Q:  Can you answer the — whether — the status of the issue? Have you made a recommendation to the White House saying, we don’t — we don’t recommend a new sale?

MR. SCHIFFER:  I will simply offer that there have been no decisions that have been made on arms sales to Taiwan.  But as I said before, I mean, this is an issue that we continue to work — in my office, we work with this question on a daily basis.  And consistent with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States will provide to Taiwan the self-defense capabilities that it requires.

Q:  Would you — would you see a possible contradiction should the — your department or the U.S. Government decide later on that F- 16C/Ds would not be sold to Taiwan on one hand; on the other hand, the report has — you know, it’s featured in the report that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait is, you know, continuing to move in — to the advantage of China?  Do you see a potential contradiction there?  Are you concerned?

MR. SCHIFFER:  As I said earlier, there — this is a challenging security environment.  It’s a challenging security environment across a number of different dimensions, not just one and not just a security environment where — to take the tipping point question and turn it around, where there is some, you know, silver bullet that will all of a sudden change everything.  We are committed to working, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, with Taiwan, and consistent with the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués, to make sure that Taiwan has the self-defense capabilities that it needs across a range of — a range of dimensions.

Kevin, I can —

Q:  Mike, can you — can you detail, beyond the visits by Gates and Mullen, any military exchanges going on between the U.S. and China in the interest of transparency?  And in the case of the aircraft carrier sea trials, will — was there any type of notification or action between the two — your two sides for that, you know, first high-profile event since these big visits have, you know, made those pledges to be more transparent?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We — I mean, we’ve engaged with the PLA in a number of working-level discussions and meetings over the — over the course of the year, and I’d be happy to make sure that we can provide you or anybody else that’s interested with the full list.  But since Secretary Gates went in January of this year, we had defense policy coordination talks, which are held at my level.  We’ve had a working group meeting of the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement.  Just last week there were a number of people from my team here in the Pentagon and the Joint Staff that were in Beijing having working-level discussions about transparency and a number of other related issues. So there has been a fair amount of stuff that’s been — that’s been going on at the — at the working level even as we’ve also had these senior-level contacts.

The one other thing that I would point to is that, as many of you may know, we had established at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue this year a new joint civil-military dialogue, something that Secretary Gates had called for when he was in China in January, to allow us to discuss sensitive security issues, those things that might be most troubling for stability in the bilateral relationship in a setting that brings together both civilian and military leaders on both sides at a — at a fairly senior level.

That’s not strictly a mil-mil engagement, but that does speak to our efforts to institutionalize and regularize and deepen these sorts of dialogues and discussions with the People’s Republic of China.

Yeah.

Q:  Where does cyber capability fit into the matrix of China’s developing capabilities that you call potentially destabilizing?

MR. SCHIFFER:  We have some analysis of where we think the Chinese are going in the cyber realm and — in the report, and I guess I should do the commercial here that says that, you know, this is really a report — and I say this with all sincerity — that we really do like to allow to speak for itself, because there’s a lot of — a lot of very good stuff in here.  And so, I’d recommend that you sort of dive into the report to pull out some of that analysis.

But you know, it’s no secret, again, that, you know, cyber is a realm where deeper engagement between the United States and China, so that we can work on common rules of the road and a common way forward, is necessary.  You know, we have — we have some concerns about some of the things that we’ve seen, and we want to be able to work through that with China.

Yeah.

Q:  (Inaudible) — this is a report that’s subject to a lengthy interagency review, but it was also due in March.  Could you give us any more insight as to why it took so many months to actually produce this?  Were there any sticking points in the internal discussions about this?

MR. SCHIFFER:  There were no — you know, I realize a good conspiracy is, you know, a lot more fun than just sort the simple banal truth of bureaucracies grinding away on a — on a daily basis. You know, this is a very, very complex and important set of issues, as I — as I know you all appreciate.

To turn out a good product, and to turn out a good product that we were able to coordinate across the U.S. Government, because we think that it benefits greatly from that sort of coordination, simply — simply took time.  I, you know, wish that it didn’t, wish we had been able to turn it out — to turn it out quicker, but I think the results, when you have the chance to read through the report, speak to — speak to the benefits of taking that time to really — to really turn out a product that — that I think — and I don’t just say this because I’m paid to say it — but that I think really has a lot of very, very good, cogent content and analysis.

In the back.

Q:  I didn’t see any discussion of China’s holding of American debt.  And I’m curious how you see these fiscal issues play into the larger security picture between the U.S. and China.

MR. SCHIFFER:  That — those sorts of issues aren’t included in this report because that is, at least as our current congressional mandate — reads a little bit outside the scope of the report and, frankly, outside the scope or the expertise of the Department of Defense.  I mean, I’ll simply say that this is obviously an extraordinarily complex economic relationship that — that we have with China and an extraordinarily complex relationship that — that creates challenges on both sides.  And I know that that’s receiving a lot of extraordinarily high-level attention from both our leadership, including Vice President Biden on his — on his trip the other week, and from China’s leadership.

Q:  You mentioned some of the humanitarian and disaster-relief kind of work the Chinese navy is engaged in.

How great of an emphasis do you see them placing on those sort of operations?  Do you see it as a — as almost as great of an emphasis as the U.S. has placed on it, or do you see it just kind of staying as a side mission for them?

MR. SCHIFFER:  China’s still, you know, in the relatively early stages of engaging fully in the region and with the international community as a provider of those sorts of goods and services.  But as I said, I mean, this is something that we view as a — as a positive development.  And we want to encourage China to join with — to join with the United States and our other allies and partners in the region and around the globe in providing those sorts of capabilities and those sorts of assets.  I mean, a China that helps to respond to the threats of piracy, a China that helps to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief needs, and that is playing that sort of positive and constructive role in global affairs.  I mean, that’s — that’s a very good thing for the United States, that’s a very good thing for the region, that’s a very good thing for the world.

Q:  And to follow up, is — are they interested in kind of the same regions that the U.S. are?  Is there some divergence there?

MR. SCHIFFER:  There — I mean, this is a question, frankly, that, you know, you should address to — you know, address to folks on the Chinese side to get a better sense of their current thinking.  But they’re — you know, they’re still, as I said, in the relatively early stages of developing their own thinking as to how they’re going out into the world and conduct these operations.  Although, I would point out that I think they have something like close to 18,000 folks that have participated in peacekeeping operations, you know, in recent years, which is a sizeable contribution and that’s — you know, and a number of different peacekeeping missions.

Yeah, in the very back row there.

Q:  The aircraft carrier, just coming back to that:  How big a deal is that?  And can that development be seen in a positive light — (inaudible)?

MR. SCHIFFER:  You know, I think this is something that as I — as I said, doesn’t come as any surprise to us.

I mean, this was a development that the Chinese have been — have been working on for — for a number of years, and it’s not at all, you know, out of character or, you know, out of — out of the norm of the sorts of development given — you know, given the trajectory of China’s military modernization efforts over the past — over the past couple decades.

Whether or not this proves to be a — you know, a net plus for the region or for the globe or proves to be something that has destabilizing effects and raises blood pressure in various regional capitals I think remains to be seen; and again, not to sound like a broken record, but underscores the importance of being able to have those dialogues that allow us to reach greater strategic understanding and aim for a — for a degree of strategic trust, not just between the United States and China, but China and its other neighbors as well.

COL LAPAN:  (Off mic) We have time for one or two more.

MR. SCHIFFER:  OK.

Q:  You’ve been — there’s been a lot of discussion of the carrier, but the report also talks a great deal about the other naval capabilities the Chinese have been developing.  What kind of capabilities in here do you find most noteworthy or most troubling or most of concern?

MR. SCHIFFER:  Again, you know, there’s no single capability that I find to be, you know, either most noteworthy or most troubling or most of concern.  It is the overall trajectory of China’s military modernization efforts and the fact that they are, you know, working across a number of different dimensions of power in the maritime domain that is — that is something that I think we need to keep an eye on, need to assure that we in turn have the — have the capabilities in place to safeguard our national security interests, need to work with our allies and partners on their — on their capacities and their capabilities and, again, need to engage with China so that we can have a better and deeper understanding of how we’re both — how we’re each approaching issues in the naval and in the maritime domain.

We can have one last question.

Q:  If past years are any guide, China will generally react angrily to the release of this report.  It seems like they resent the enterprise itself, let alone the contents.  Is China mistaken in thinking of this report as a hostile act towards China?  And in your own mil-mil dealings, have you ever received more nuanced feedback from Chinese counterparts on this report?

MR. SCHIFFER:  My expectations, like yours, is that, you know, our Chinese friends will very likely have some critical comments to say about the issuance of this report.  As we’ve tried to explain to them in our military-to-military engagements, I mean, the report can be read, and I hope that they do look at it as, an encapsulation of the sorts of questions and the sorts of issues that we have questions about, that we would like to be able to engage in discussion and dialogue with them on; and that it’s our sense that if we are able to have that sort of robust, reliable, continuous military-to-military dialogue, that that will lead to a more positive relationship between the United States and China and will help contribute to regional stability and security.

So thank you all very much.  I hope that was — hope that was helpful.