The U.S. remains committed to a series of military exchanges with Communist China despite the hostile attitude of the Chinese government during and since the recent 11-day standoff.
Everything is business as usual, to hear Lt. Cmdr. Don Jewell, the "action officer” for the exchange plan. He tells NewsMax.com the "mil to mil” program started by the Clinton administration, and involving Chinese intelligence officers, remains "on track.”
It was started under Clinton, and the Bush administration seems to have given it a casual pass. State Department and Pentagon officials told Washington Times national security reporter Bill Gertz last month that the 2001 military exchange program was quietly pushed through by Clinton holdovers without a thorough review by the Bush people. The list of exchanges was completed in the final weeks of the Clinton presidency under the direction of Walter Slocomb, then undersecretary of defense for policy.
Last month, Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the Pacific Command, had scheduled a visit to Beijing for the first of about 30 high-level military exchanges or "events” between the U.S. and Chinese militaries for this year.
A Pentagon spokeswoman was quoted then as emphasizing that "we seek to include China, not exclude China, from participation in multilateral activities common to the interests of all nations.”
Blair's journey was made to "explain [to the Chinese] the [U.S.] Pacific Command’s activities and plans.”
Among the events that are to be included in these exchanges are visits by military and intelligence officers from China to highly sensitive U.S. military installations, ships and aircraft.
Are the Chinese being equally open with visiting Americans? Not really, it seems. In 1998, visiting Americans were shown an aging air defense base meant to deceive them about China’s military strength and potential.
These military exchanges were mostly out of public view until Gertz publicized them March 13. But that was before the latest high-profile diplomatic clash with the Chinese over their plane colliding with ours due to the Chinese pilot’s recklessness over the South China Sea. Though we got our 24 air crew members back, the Chinese refuse to return the crippled plane. Furthermore, the Chinese continue to loudly insist that the incident was the fault of the American crew, which to some is a little like blaming the U.S. for the Japanese destruction of Pearl Harbor.
But does all this Chinese hostility have any effect on the U.S.-Chinese "mil to mil” program? Apparently not.
"We’re going ahead with it,” says Lt. Cmdr. Jewell.
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