U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress [December 14, 2010]   [open pdf - 708KB]

"This CRS [Congressional Research Service] report, updated as warranted, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and provides a record of major contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, the Clinton Administration re-engaged with the top PRC leadership, including China's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained the closeness reached in the 1980s, when U.S.-PRC strategic cooperation against the Soviet Union included U.S. arms sales to China. Improvements and deteriorations in overall bilateral relations have affected military contacts, which were close in 1997-1998 and 2000, but marred by the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, mistaken NATO bombing of a PRC embassy in 1999, the EP- 3 aircraft collision crisis in 2001, and aggressive naval confrontations (including in 2009). [...] Policymakers could review the approach to mil-to-mil contacts, given concerns about crises. U.S. officials have reported inadequate cooperation from the PLA, including denials of port visits at Hong Kong and aid to U.S. Navy ships in distress (Thanksgiving 2007). The PLA has tried to use its suspensions of exchanges while blaming U.S. 'obstacles' (including arms sales to Taiwan, legal restrictions on contacts, and the Pentagon's reports to Congress on the PLA). The PRC's harassment of U.S. surveillance ships (in 2009) and increasing assertiveness in maritime areas have shown the limits to mil-to-mil talks and PLA restraint. Still, at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July 2009, President Obama called for military contacts to diminish disputes with China. The NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84) amended P.L. 106-65 for the report on PRC military power to expand the focus to security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, and fold in another report on mil-to-mil contacts. The two sides held a round of the DCT in December 2010, and the PLA belatedly invited Secretary Gates to visit in January 2011."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32496
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