Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey will travel to China this month to discuss shared security concerns concerning recent bellicosity by North Korea, according to according to American Forces Press Service. Dempsey recently spoke to his Chinese counterpart Gen. Fang Fenghui by telephone in anticipation of that meeting.
North Korea’s bellicose behavior in recent months follows a cyclical pattern that has held true for decades, according to Dempsey. Speaking with reporters in Stuttgart, Germany, Dempsey indicated he has not seen anything coming out of Pyongyang to suggest the latest round of noisemaking being any different from previous behavior.
“There’s been a pattern throughout the last 25 or 30 years of provocation to accommodation to provocation back to accommodation,” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him for the U.S. Africa Command change of command.
Dempsey added however, “we’re all concerned that it could be something different because of the presence of a new and much younger leader and our inability to understand who influences him … in the past, we’ve understood their leadership and the influencers a little better than we do today.”
Pyongyang’s seemingly war-readiness stance of late has been especially in response to the annual Foal Eagle field training exercise involving U.S. and South Korean forces, the chairman indicated.
“There’s been some speculation that our activities have been provocative, but our activities have been largely defensive and exclusively intended to reassure our allies,” Dempsey said.
“We’ve been deliberate and measured, and the rhetoric, … that’s been pretty reckless,” Dempsey added. “And we believe they have nuclear capability. We don’t know whether they’ve been able to weaponize it, but the combination of that makes it a very reckless statement.”
Dempsey assured, “we’ll live up to our alliance obligations and protect our national interest.”
This is despite military spending cuts by the United States.
“That’s not being bellicose,” Dempsey added. “That’s being very matter-of-fact.”
“We both agreed in that telephone conversation that we did need to speak about North Korea,” the chairman said referring to his recent contact with Fang.
A number of challenges surround North Korea, Dempsey told reporters. He noted that the upcoming trip provides an opening to learn face-to-face the implications for China and to explain the implications for the United States and its allies.
“Looking at these issues in isolation is a guarantee that we’ll fail to understand them. What I’m not going to do is go over there and deliver the traditional talking point about, ‘Can’t you get your southern neighbor under control?’” Dempsey said.
“I know the answer to that question,” he continued. “I would rather take the opportunity to gain a little deeper understanding of … their issues. … I think that’s kind of the basis of understanding.”
Born in 1951, Fang graduated from China’s University of National Defense and joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1968, according to China Vitae. Fang was promoted to major general in 1998 and to lieutenant general in 2005. In 2003, he became a member of the Standing Committee of Guangzhou Military Area Command and chief of staff of the Guangzhou Military Area Command. In 2007, he was promoted to commander of Beijing Military Area Command.
Fang was a member of 17th CPC Central Committee. In 2012 he became Chief of the General Staff of the Headquarters of the General Staff, PLA and a member of the 18th CPC Central Committee, as well as a member of the 18th CPC Central Military Commission.
China Vitae is a nonprofit research organization established in 2001, dedicated to raising the quality and quantity of English language, biographical information on China’s top leadership; and to create a centralize repository of such information available to a worldwide audience.