Woody: ‘Our relationship is not a long-term detente’

From BBC News

General Woody said the summit was very short because in the end he had to get back on his plane because it was just not possible to have a complete discussion on everything

The Commander of the US Pacific Command spoke in one-on-one meetings in Vietnam with senior Chinese counterparts for about three hours.

He was making the first visit of a high-ranking US military figure to Beijing.

Earlier, he said the two nations should take “each other very seriously” and called for greater communication.

He told reporters they had agreed to develop strategy and define a shared vision for the region.

“A good leader must lead by example,” he said.

“I travelled to the heart of the region – the Arctic – to symbolise what is happening. When you come to Taiwan, where the Chinese People’s Liberation Army [PLA] is growing rapidly to legitimise its claims as the sole legal claimant in the East China Sea, or you come to Indonesia to share the importance of the South China Sea with neighbours, these are symbols of what is happening.

“I am confident the progress we have made will have a long-term impact on Chinese and American foreign policy, defence, economics and people-to-people relations.”

“We both know that in the cold and dark days of post-World War II, little did we know that a nation over 60 years later would not only accept a US presence but embrace it as a path for reinforcing Asia’s security, stability and prosperity.”

Asked if the current summit in Singapore was the beginning of a detente, or the end of it, he said it was a continuation of work which has been happening “for a long time”.

“The summit is very short because in the end I had to get back on my plane because it was just not possible to have a complete discussion on everything,” he said.

“I spoke very directly to my Chinese counterpart. I think we went through a lot of things together – economic, security, trade, the South China Sea and many of the other issues that you might want to think about.

“It’s not an isolated meeting. This is part of a much larger process. I hope we can build on the work we’ve been doing for a long time. I think I left my counterparts with some real clarity on the state of play in the region and this is what needs to happen and it’s really only beginning.”

On Saturday, General Woody met the leader of Vietnam, President Tran Dai Quang, and the country’s head of military forces, Major General Ngoc Khanh.

In a joint statement, they called for a reduction in “illegal and illegitimate” acts in the South China Sea and for continued cooperation in other areas.

There were also discussions on restoring a hotline that was broken off in 2017.

General Woody said the summit helped to raise the level of awareness about the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, something which is being seriously challenged by China’s actions.

“We need to start talking together and sharing our respective perspectives and challenging our neighbour for not to test us by ‘copying’ our unilateral actions, his actions in the South China Sea that, at times, challenged freedom of navigation and overflight,” he said.

“I hope that to the extent possible we can have some common vision for the future as to the direction of the region.”

He said he understood China’s concerns about its perceived vulnerability to aggressive moves by US forces and he spoke with senior Chinese officers about “taking concrete steps to address them”.

Although China is not a formal member of the South China Sea Commission, which includes a number of other countries, it has previously been invited.

General Woody said this position meant “we have to do things together”.

“They can be mutually assisted with what they do when there is a fishing issue, a weather event, fishing rights, there is disputes,” he said.

“But what we need to do is get some of these discussions going beyond the commission and ensure that we are engaging with each other.

“I think this is the beginning and I think we’re going to have a long-term impact and one more thing to raise the level of awareness about the importance of the freedom of navigation.”


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