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Media Availability with Secretary Panetta & Amb. Locke

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - September 19, 2012

            MR. GEORGE LITTLE:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  The secretary will start with brief opening remarks, and then we'll go to questions. 

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA:  Good afternoon.  Let me just -- just to recap a few of the highlights of the visit before I take your questions, as I -- as I said, this is my first trip to China as secretary of defense.  And over the past two days, I really believe we've had a series of very productive meetings with some of China's key military and civilian leaders. 

            As you know, yesterday I met with General Liang, General Xu, and State Councilor Dai.  And this morning, I met with Vice President Xi, who I had the honor of hosting at the Pentagon last year -- this year -- this year. 

            And for those of you that had the opportunity, I was able to visit the engineering academy of the PLA Armed Forces, where I had -- had the honor of speaking to a lot of young officers and cadets.  And tomorrow, I'm looking forward to traveling to Qingdao and having the opportunity to visit the headquarters of China's North Sea Fleet and tour several PLA naval vessels.  And I just might point out, that's the first time a secretary of defense has had that opportunity. 

            So I'm -- I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to visit the facility.  And I guess I'm particularly pleased, because I announced yesterday that the United States will invite China to send a ship to our largest multilateral naval exercise in the Pacific, RIMPAC.  

            All told, I believe this has been a very substantive visit.  And it comes at a very important moment for the U.S.-China relationship.  And as I told the officers and cadets, the U.S. is renewing and revitalizing its role in the Asia Pacific in a very broad way, through increased diplomatic efforts, through increased economic efforts, and through strengthening our security engagement, as well. 

            And what I hope this visit has made clear is that engagement with China is a critical part of that effort.  And I believe we're making real progress towards building a military-to-military relationship with China that is, in fact, healthy, stable, reliable, and continuous. 

            The bottom line is, I do -- I do feel very good about the progress we've been able to make.  You know, the -- the meetings have gone very well.  We've had very good, frank, and candid exchanges.  And, you know, I believe we've laid a good foundation for the future to try to continue the effort to improve our relations. 

            There's -- there's really two things that -- that impressed me the most.  One is that, you know, we -- we will have our differences.  We have areas we agree on, but we'll have our differences.  That's the reality. 

            But the key is that -- and it's the key to, frankly, the ability to have good relations elsewhere as well.  The key is, if we can have open communications and the ability to express our views in a candid way, in an honest way with each other, that almost more than anything else is what can lead to improved relations between the United States and China.  And we've begun those kinds of meetings, and we really have had very candid and frank discussions, which I think bode well for the future. 

            The second thing is the young people I met today.  You know, the future rests with them.  And my impression was that these young officers do understand the implications of a U.S.-China relationship and that they also understand what it means for their future and for the future of China.  And I guess that -- that also encourages me, that -- that this isn't just a question of dealing with senior leaders.  This is something that's impacting at the -- you know, cadet level, the officer level, and that -- that tells me that -- that there is a lot of hope that we can -- we can move forward with this relationship into the future. 

            So, with that, happy to -- 

            MR. LITTLE:  All right.  Thank you very much.  We'll start with Craig. 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, you raised a couple of questions on the issue of cyber warfare "“ and that it's one of the issues on your agenda with Chinese diplomats. Can you tell us there's been (inaudible) a number of attacks that are coming from Chinese sources, particularly traced back to PLA and universities and researchers. The question of attacks, is that something you raised with your counterparts?  And what exactly did you say?  And what was your response? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  We -- that was part of these candid discussions we had.  I did raise the area of cyber.  Raised it in the context of, you know, this is -- this is now an area that, you know, is -- is the potential battlefield for the future and that the technology that's developing in cyber has the potential to cripple a country, paralyze a country. 

            And that in addition to that, cyber is now, you know, being used in order to exploit information, important economic information, from one country to the next, and that the United States has concerns about what China has been doing, in terms of exploiting information. 

            And so what I -- what I urged in that context is that it was really important for the United States and China to -- to have a dialogue with regards to cyber.  And there was -- there was concurrence with that, with the people I talked about, that in the context of the -- of the security dialogue that we have, that -- that we raise the issue of cyber and discuss it, talk about trying to develop, you know, kind of international standards and rules, and in addition to that, also discuss space.  So I thought -- I thought that was a very good step to, you know, at least beginning the discussion about dealing with this issue. 

            MR. LITTLE:  At the end of the table? 

            Q:  Thank you. Mr. Secretary, I was wondering, how do you see the issue of the Diaoyu Islands?  And have you talked about this issue with your Chinese counterparts -- (inaudible) -- will there be a war?  And if there's a war, will the U.S. be part of it?  And are you worried about the rise of -- (inaudible) -- in China?  Thank you. 

            SEC. PANETTA:  At each meeting that I had, I raised the issue of, you know, the maritime issues that have been -- have been raised and -- not only in the South China Sea, but now in the East -- East China Sea, as well, with these islands, and emphasized, as I -- as I've been saying, that while the United States does not take a position with regards to these territorial disputes, that we strongly urge the parties to exercise restraint and to work together to find a peaceful resolution to these issues. 

            And I think all of the leaders I've spoken with -- those in Japan, as well as those here in China -- recognize that they have a responsibility to try to see if there isn't a peaceful way to resolve it.  There are a lot of emotions involved here on both sides, but I think they also recognize that it's important not to let this kind of dispute get out of hand. 

            MR. LITTLE:  Lita? 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, if I can turn your attention to Afghanistan, I was wondering if you can answer a couple questions about the recent change from the operations there.  Did you -- have you spoken to General Allen about this specifically in the last day or two?  Did you have to approve these changes? 

            And then, there's a lot of discussion about them being temporary and some linkage to the anti-Islam film.  There were a lot of insider attacks, as you know, before this ever came out, so I'm wondering, how much of this change is actually really related to the protests and the film?  And how much is related to this problem that's been going on for -- for quite some time?  And how long is -- do you think temporary should be? 

            SEC. PANETTA:  Well, you know, I think we have to, you know, continue to put this in context.  The fact is that we have had terrorist attacks against our forces in -- in Afghanistan, you know, for a long period of time.  This is really not -- not something new.  It's what, you know, we've been -- we've had IED attacks.  We've had other terrorist attacks.  We've had, you know, some of the car bombs attacks that have -- that have gone on, and we've had insider attacks. 

            And, you know, the important thing is that this is -- this is a matter of tactics.  It's not -- and changing tactics.  It's not a matter of changing strategy.  As you deal with these kinds of issues, you've got to confront them and, obviously, take steps to do whatever we can to protect our forces. 

            I talked to General Allen about this.  We have SVTS [secure video teleconferences] every week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.  And we had long conversations with regards to the steps being taken to try to deal with insider attacks.  And I'm confident in General Allen and his approach to what he's doing there. 

            And as I said, the commander in the field is the one who's best able to determine what steps need to be taken in order to quickly deal with that situation.  But it is about tactics.  It isn't about changing strategy.  And our fundamental strategy remains the same. 

            These tactics and what -- and what's occurring here is aimed at one thing.  It's aimed at trying to break the relationship between the United States and the Afghan army, which is critical to our ability to ultimately move towards security in the future in Afghanistan.  That's what they're trying to do.  We understand that.  But we also understand that we have made very good progress in Afghanistan. 

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