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A Missed Opportunity in Beijing

2:14 AM, Mar 23, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was greeted with full military honors in Beijing yesterday where he met with his counterpart, PLA General Liang Guanglie.

The American Forces Press Service reports that the Chinese brought up the "situation" between Taiwan and China and that Pace assured them that American policy is guided by the "'One China Policy,' the ‘Three Communiques' (between the United States and China), the Taiwan Relations Act and a sincere desire to see reunification done in a peaceful manner."

An American officer of this rank didn't visit the Soviet Union until June of 1989, when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral William Crowe Jr. arrived in Moscow to sign the Agreement on Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities--the aim of which was to reduce the risk of a confrontation between the two superpowers. Among the articles of that agreement were pledges to avoid:

Using a laser in such a manner that its radiation could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment of the armed forces of the other Party;

Interfering with command and control networks in a manner which could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment of the armed forces of the other Party.

It would have been nice if Pace could have walked away from his meetings in Beijing with just such an agreement in hand. Larry Wortzel, chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, spoke at the National Press Club late last year about the urgent need for U.S. military leaders to engage in "serious defense talks with the senior PLA leaders on what the red lines are in warfare." Wortzel was talking specifically about the surfacing of a Chinese sub so close to an American carrier, but he added that "the Chinese need to understand that we are very sensitive about interference with our strategic warning and about the ability of the United States to gather indications of hostility"--i.e. blinding our satellites with lasers and generally "interfering with command and control networks in a manner which could cause harm to personnel."

And it is absolutely crucial that the American military come to some sort of understanding with their Chinese counterparts on these issues. Any interference in command and control networks could force the United States into a disproportionate response simply because that interference will blind American commanders to the severity of the attack. So it's a bit disappointing that the precedent of Crowe's visit to the Soviet Union was not seized on to push for a similar deal with the Chinese.

The pictures from the visit are striking though. You can see more here.

Pace_China.JPG
Marine General Peter Pace and PLA General Liang Guanglie.
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force