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The Pentagon’s top general this week predicted that the U.S. pivot to Asia and increased support for alliances in the region will produce “friction” with China.

During a news conference Monday in Beijing with China’s military chief, Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey pointedly stated that the United States maintains treaty alliances and obligations with Australia, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.

“We will build and recognize the historic alliances, and there will be points when that creates friction,” he said, alluding to China’s growing assertiveness in pressuring Asian nations to accept its disputed claims of maritime sovereignty over large areas of international waters and resource-rich islets.

The four-star general’s comments were an unusual public admission that U.S. military relations with China remain rocky.

U.S. allies in Asia have been pressing the Pentagon to do more to counter China’s growing military assertiveness in Asia — activities that, they say, are undermining a regional stability that has been assured for decades by forward-deployed U.S. military forces, mainly naval power.

Gen. Dempsey, who concluded a five-day visit to China on Wednesday, said the Pentagon hopes to develop better ties and a “more enduring relationship” with China’s army but not at the expense of “other historic and enduring alliances.”

Michael Pillsbury, a former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said: “Gen. Dempsey was wise to warn the Chinese at the news conference that there will be ‘points of future friction.’ As far as I recall, this is the first time in three decades of exchanges that an American leader has dared to express this level of frankness.”

As part of the shift to Asia, the Pentagon is deploying 2,500 Marines to northern Australia, basing new coastal combat ships in Singapore, bolstering ties with Japan’s military and working to develop closer military relations with the Philippines.

The Pentagon also developed a new operating concept, called Air-Sea Battle, that better utilizes naval and air power against threats in Asia.

Senior defense officials have asserted that U.S. moves in Asia are not directed at countering China. Privately, however, defense officials have said China is the main target, specifically Beijing’s high-tech weaponry that includes anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-satellite weapons and cyberwarfare capabilities.

Earlier, Gen. Fang said of the expanding Chinese military power that the Pacific could “accommodate both of us.” Analysts say that statement reflects China’s assertion that the U.S. military will no long be the dominant power in the region.

China’s state-controlled media omitted the remark about impending friction between the two militaries and sought to portray Gen. Dempsey’s visit in more flowery terms.

The often-jingoistic Global Times, an official Communist Party newspaper, quoted Gen. Fang on the visit, saying, “Your visit is an important event in the bilateral military exchange program. We place great importance in it.”


Seven Republican House members wrote to Army Secretary John M. McHugh this week, expressing “serious concerns” that the service’s battlefield intelligence processor designed to digest and analyze reams of data on the enemy may not function properly.

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