Military Difficulties

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen took to the New York Times op-ed page today to talk China. Though the U.S.-China military relationship is “one of the world’s most important,” the article began, “clouded by some misunderstanding and suspicion, it remains among the most challenging.” He says Washington needs to make the pursuit of “strategic trust” its priority. Talking is the first step, he noted, even if the dialogue isn’t always cordial, and the two parties need to focus on common interests.

Yesterday, reportedly in his last statement as chairman before retirement, Mullen took on U.S.-Pakistan military relations, which he described as going through “a very difficult time right now.” Though he doesn’t think Washington and Islamabad are close to cutting ties completely, the two do need to “recalibrate” relations soon. But Mullen’s likely not going to be the to see that recalibration through to completion. He’ll retire on October 1, and his likely replacement, Army General Martin Dempsey, will head to the Hill today for his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey isn’t expected to meet any pushback.

North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, left China this morning bound for New York, where he is reportedly going to meet with the U.S. envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth. Washington is trying to get back to the nuclear negotiating table, and this is, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described it, an “exploratory meeting.” Despite press reports before the ASEAN conference in Bali to the contrary, Clinton did sit down with the South Korean and North Korean envoys to the meeting.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the Syrian government’s recent crackdown “barbaric”: “The behavior of Syria's security forces, including other such barbaric shootings, widescale arrests of young men and boys, brutal torture, and other abuses of basic human rights, is reprehensible.” In lines similar to Secretary Clinton’s previous statements, Nuland said Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, should realize he is “not indispensable” and has “lost legitimacy.” Meanwhile, Britain now seems to be on board with a plan for Libya that would allow Colonel Qaddafi to remain in the country after giving up political power.

As Washington continues to struggle with raising the debt limit to avoid a default crisis, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is calling on Greece to get its financial house in order. According to a statement, Geithner “welcomed the progress Greece has already made toward strengthening its public finances and underscored the need for continued and full implementation of the program.” The treasury secretary was meeting with Greece’s finance minister in Washington.