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Adm. Mullen's Speech at the 2010 Asia Society Washington's Annual Dinner

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the Asia Society Washington Awards Dinner on June 9, 2010.

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the Asia Society Washington Awards Dinner on June 9, 2010.

The North Korean attack on a South Korean warship this spring was not only an egregious breach of the fragile peace on that peninsula, but also yet another example of the sort of provocation and premeditation with which the North regime continues to isolate itself and threaten its neighbors.

We in the United States military stand firmly by our allies in the Republic of Korea and will move forward in keeping with international agreements to demonstrate that solidarity in coming weeks.  I think it is of no surprise to anyone that we are planning maritime exercises to sharpen skills and strengthen collective defenses.

And I would offer that South Korea's neighbors and friends can assist as well in whatever manner best suits their sovereign needs.  I have been encouraged by public statements made recently by Chinese leadership as to the seriousness of this incident and the need for accountability, and yet dismayed by a fairly tepid response to calls by the international community for support.

China is a leader in the region, a rising leader.  We welcome its considerable strength and its potential.  The question is, should China and the U.S. work together, lead together to promote regional stability?  Washington's answer is and has been an unequivocal yes.  Beijing's answer has been sometimes yes and sometimes no.

The recent rejection of a military-to-military contact is particularly disappointing because it removes the opportunity to listen and to learn from and about each other.  And their heavy investments of late in modern expeditionary, maritime, air - and air capabilities seems oddly out of step with their stated goal of territorial defense.

Every nation has a right to defend itself and to spend as it sees fit for that purpose, but a gap as wide as what seems to be forming between China's stated intent and its military programs leaves me more than curious about the end result.  Indeed, I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned.

Again, it comes back to responsibility, the kind of responsibility that leadership demands.  I hope we may renew our military relationship with China, and I hope that its military leaders will join us in supporting efforts to reduce tension, increase trust and foster the sort of genuine and sustainability that the people who live and work in Asia so very much deserve.  As President Obama has said, the United States and Asia are not separated by the Pacific Ocean; we are bound by it.

Thank you to the Asia Society and to all of you here for your personal commitment to building and maintaining relationships that signify a deep commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, and an abiding hope that our efforts underwrite a secure and prosperous world for our children and our grandchildren.  Thank you and God bless.