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Mattis, Chinese Leadership Discuss Pacific Cooperation in First SECDEF Trip to Beijing Since 2014

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Xu Qiliang at the People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi building in Beijing on June 28, 2018. DoD photo

This ocean is big enough for the both of us, China’s leaders told Secretary of Defense James Mattis during his week-long swing through the Pacific spent finding common ground in some cases with Beijing or politely agreeing to disagree in others.

While in Beijing, Mattis met with China’s President, Xi Jinping, his counterpart General Wei Fenghe, Minister of National Defense, and with General Xu Qililang, China’s Central Military Commission vice chairman.

“The Pacific Ocean is vast enough to accommodate China and the United States, as well as other countries,” Xi said, according to the English translation of a statement released by China’s Ministry of National Defense after Mattis departed.

“China and the United States should promote the development of bilateral ties based on the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation. When we see common interests between China and the United States, we do not shy away from differences,” Xi said in the statement.

Mattis and General Xu Qililang agreed that reducing the region’s risk and strategic uncertainty relies heavily on substantive military-to-military contacts, according to a summary of the meeting provided by Dana White, head Pentagon spokesperson.

A broad range of topics was discussed, including the U.S. and China’s shared interest in the denuclearization of North Korea, were discussed during Mattis’ two-day stay in Beijing, the first such official visit by a U.S. Secretary of Defense since 2014.

Full transcripts of Mattis’ meetings were not made available by the Pentagon. However, after Mattis left Beijing, the Chinese government released more details of his conversations with China’s senior leadership regarding bilateral military relations, maritime security operations, and the status of Taiwan – China considers the island as part of the mainland, not a sovereign state.

“Needless to say, China and the U.S. have different views on some issues. It must be pointed out, however, that the common interests of China and the US far outweigh their differences, and the opportunities for cooperation far outweigh the challenges,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said Thursday according to an English translation transcript of his monthly press briefing, released by the ministry.

Still, Chinese officials are not pleased with language in the House of Representatives 2019 National Defense Authorization Act encouraging increased interactions between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries. The NDAA, “Supports improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities, expands joint training, foreign military sales, the use of security cooperation authorities, and senior-level military-to-military engagement initiatives with Taiwan.”

Responding to a media question about the NDAA language, Wu said China’s position is clear.

“Taiwan is a part of China. We are firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges and military contacts between any country and Taiwan. This position is clear and definite. What needs to be stressed is that there is no way out to bank on foreign forces to build themselves up, and it is impossible to contain China with Taiwan. We urge the US side to deal with the Taiwan-related issues cautiously or it might shoot itself in the foot,” Wu said, according to the Ministry of National Defense transcript.

Mattis also visited South Korea and Japan, reaffirming the U.S. pledge to continue partnering with the countries. In the case of South Korea, Mattis said the U.S. would continue its close consultation with South Korean leaders and other partners in the region as “our diplomats continue their work to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” according to a statement released by the Pentagon.

U.S. troop levels in South Korea would remain at about the current level of roughly 28,000 active duty military personnel, Mattis said.

“The U.S. and [South Korean] forces remain united, vigilant and ready to defend against any challenge,” Mattis said in a statement.

Coincidentally, Mattis’ meeting with China’s military leadership occurred the same day the Rim of the Pacific 2018 exercise started. In May, the U.S. revoked China’s invitation to participate in the exercise because of China’s actions deploying missiles and electronic warfare systems to artificial islands in the South China Sea.

While meeting with Wei, Mattis invited him to make a similar official visit to the U.S. “Wei accepted the invitation gladly,” Wu said during his briefing.

Meanwhile, China’s invite to RIMPAC 2018 was canceled but that doesn’t necessarily mean China won’t send a ship anyway. A Chinese surveillance ship was waiting for HMAS Adelaide (L-01) when Australia’s Canberra-class landing helicopter dock ship stopped in Fiji two weeks ago while transiting to join RIMPAC in Hawaii, according to Australian news reports.

However, during his media briefing, Wu dismissed the idea China would spy on Australia’s navy during Thursday’s press briefing.

“The Australian media’s reports are sheer fabrication out of nothing and whimsical imagination. To be very frank, the Australian media may have overestimated their country’s strength. China has no reason or need to conduct the so-called surveillance on Australian naval ships,” Wu said. “The way the Australian media draw attention by distorting the story only reveals their lack of common sense and confidence. I want to stress that freedom of the press is not equal to fabrication.”

During RIMPAC 2014, China sent four ships to participate in the exercise and slipped a fifth — an uninvited surveillance ship — into the region to monitor the activities.

  • Tanner Wade

    Taiwan is not part of China no matter how much propaganda the Chinese dictatorship spreads, and they know what the USA will do to them if they try taking it by force, which is why they haven’t.

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      Exactly. China needs to let that dog sleep.

    • Duane

      The Republic of China is not “Taiwan”. Taiwan is an island, not a nation. PRC refuses to call them what they are, which is a free and independent democratic republic.

      We should use the correct name – Republic of China.

      • .Hugo.

        the roc is only ruling the taiwan province today, so what’s wrong to just call it taiwan?
        you can call it what you like, but to the most in the world, it’s just TAIWAN the chinese province. 😉

    • Don Bacon

      The United States has recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. Only a few (and lessening) countries recognize ROC.

    • .Hugo.

      quite wrong. let’s read from the statement from the state department:
      The 1979 U.S.-P.R.C. Joint Communique switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. In the Joint Communique, the United States recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
      and the u.s. knows what china will do if it tries to stop china by force to reunify the country.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    Mattis looks unimpressed. About time we had a grown up in that position instead of some Obama lackey.

    • Duane

      Mattis is about the only member of the Trump cabinet who is not a sycophantic sleezebag.

      As for Lackeys, it was Trump who was the first US President ever to stoop to grant a summit to the murderous despotic Kim family, granting the murderors huge face and international stature, and then gave away the farm to Kim and Xi by cancelling all US-ROK defense exercises, vital to defense of the Korean peninsula and the 28,000 US servicemen stationed there … in return for absolutely nothing. Trump alone, not the US, gained only in that he declared that he and he alone “denuclearized North Korea”, which of course is an out and out lie …as is typical for most of what Trump says on any topic.

      And to add great insult to that injury, it was confirmed via sat photos this week that the NORKs not only are not doing anything at all to denuclearize, but they are UPGRADING their principal nuke weapons site.

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        Uh huh. We shall see, kinda early to declare it a failure, no?

        • Duane

          What has Trump obtained in his “great deal”?

          He certainly did not “denuclearize Korea” as he claimed, and of course as he lied.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Obama denuclearized Iran with a few billion in Euro’s, no? Oh wait.

            It is to soon to see what the outcome is, give it a rest.

          • Duane

            Your “whataboutism” is what needs a rest.

            The Obama nuclear agreement with Iran was certainly suboptimal, but Obama did not as a result order our troops in the Middle East to stand down and stop cooperating with our allies, or boast that it was his intent to de-Americanize the Middle East, as Trump said was his objective in Korea … which would be a humongous surrender not only to Kim, but to the far more dangerous and empire-building Xi and his PRC.

            No, go ahead with your stupid “whataboutism” than can be used, however stupidly and perversely, to excuse every single victory that your Trump gives away to our detemined enemies.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Yeah, and back to my; it is to soon to make such stupid assumptions. You never Trumpers have a excellent record of being wrong. Keep it up. I enjoy popcorn.

          • AmPatriotSmith

            I really don’t believe Pompeo is going to give away the store. It will take a lot of vigilance of NK before we can say that they have denuclearized. It may never happen. but it never happened under any president, Obama or Bush.

        • Duane

          The so-called “agreement” was just a rehash of all the things the NORKs have been saying since they began their nuke and ICBM programs decades ago. It was not worth the paper it was written on let alone Trump’s give away of the joint ROK-US defense exercises.

          As for it being “too early to tell”, our own intelligence agencies confirmed publicly last week that the NORKs have not only taken no steps to denuclearize, but rather they have actually accelerated their production of bomb materials in the last month.

          When are you guys going to remove the blinders and open your eyes? You claim to be strong conservatives and pro-US, yet you keep cheering on Trump’s obvious efforts to harm US security by attacking our allies and sucking up like a little lap dog to our dedicated enemies like Putin, Kim, and Xi.

          Open your eyes and see for yourself. If Ronald Reagan were alive, he would be Trump’s biggest critic and loudest political enemy today.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            I will remember that as the economy booms and things change. It is to early to tell and even I have underestimated Trump big time.

            I stand firm on my assertion. It’s to soon to tell.

      • muzzleloader

        Duanne, we all realize how much you hate our president, and I was waiting for your latest diatribe.
        The way I see it, your hatred of trump borders on obsession.
        The president cancelled an exercise, which has been done by other presidents, so calm your hysterics. He gave away the farm? Really? In case you didn’t know, the sanctions are still in place, and no forces have been drawn down. So what “farm” did the president give away??
        You really need to back off a bit on all your hyperbole if you want to be taken seriously.

        • airider

          I don’t take him seriously

        • Duane

          I don’t hate anyone, yet you keep repeating your silly mantra that supposes that the only reason one could oppose Trump is due to blind hatred.

          I cited facts above … Deal with the facts, which are always stubborn things for the True Believers like you.

          • muzzleloader

            I have posted a reply to you that was cogent, intelligent and respectful. The editors took it down. It would seem that there are truths that the editors are uncomfortable with.

      • Cocidius

        I’m also slightly underwhelmed about planning for a summit with Putin while starting a trade war with allies like Canada. Everyday it’s like our nation has to live through another episode of a bad reality TV show.

        • Duane

          Killing our alliances, as Trump is doing with a vengeance, is the path to killing the US and our influence and independence from the despotic murderors of the world like Putin, Xi, and Kim.

          We cannot defend ourselves by “going it alone”. That is the greatest gift that Trump has bestowed upon his Kremlin controllers, a gift that will go on giving for decades to come.

          Ronald Reagan, the great Cold Warrior, would never understand what has become of what used to be the Republican Party, and his “Shining City on a Hill”.

          • Don Bacon

            “. . .despotic murderers of the world like Putin, Xi, and Kim.”
            They can’t begin to match the numbers of Bush’s and Obama’s murders in various countries.

          • TomD

            No, sorry the Kim family is at the top of that list. Also, many of the Iraqis who died during the Clinton-Bush sanctions regime or in incidents enforcing the no-fly zones and are counted against them (esp Bush) were really due to Saddam’s non-compliance.

      • Don Bacon

        DPRK hasn’t agreed to do anything specific yet, so there’s no deception except to those easily decepted.

  • muzzleloader

    Well, again a posting of mine that was cogent, well thought through, and respectful was taken down.
    I know that I am not the only one that this has happened to.
    It would seem the powers that be at USNI get uncomfortable when certain postings get too close to the truth. SMH.

  • Dan O’Brian

    …and when the communist pulled out they’re nine (centimeter) dash line proclaiming how ‘old’ it was, Mattis was not impressed, he then whipped out his nine (inch) dash line, “this is what freedom of navigation is all about baby…”