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U.S. and China in Dialogue about Africa Relations
The United States and China continue to engage in dialogue over relations in Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan said in <a href=http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=1921>testimony before
The United States and China continue to engage in dialogue over relations in Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan said in testimony before Congress July 15, 2008 on the progress and roles of the U.S. Africa Command.

Some observers have said the focus of U.S. Africa Command is to compete with China for oil and other natural resources on the African continent, a position Whelan said is incorrect.

In her testimony, Whelan asserted that the primary mission of the U.S. Africa Command is war prevention and promoting security ties between the United States and African nations and regional organizations such as the African Union.

"Natural resources such as oil represent Africa's current and future wealth, but all we seek is a fair market environment where all can fairly compete and benefit along with other participants in the global market," Whelan said.

Security in African countries impacts not only the United States but the international community as well. For this reason, the United States has collaborated with European partners to discuss security issues, and has recently included China in its discussions.

"We recognize that China is very much a player, an increasingly large player on the continent," Whelan explained. "We engage with our European counterparts who are players on the continent so we thought it's probably time to have a discussion with China, to get their perspective and better understand how they see the situation there."

U.S. diplomats say they do not regard China's emerging interest in Africa as a security threat.

In Liberia, for example, China has contributed to the U.S.-led rebuilding of that nation's army, according to a Department of State policy statement presented to Congress on June 5, 2008.

"The U.S. government trained staff and refurbished the Ministry of Defense headquarters while China provided vehicles and computer equipment," the statement said.

"China already is making a substantial contribution to the continent's economic development, and we believe that it can play an even more important role in the future. In that spirit, we engage at multiple levels to influence Chinese actions on issues such as good governance, human rights, and transparency issues that we believe should play as prominent a role in Chinese Africa policy as in ours," the statement said.

U.S. diplomats say China has made positive contributions, such as taking part in international peacekeeping operations in Africa, where it has deployed more than 1,300 troops to Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan. On the other hand, the Chinese have not always encouraged democracy, good governance when working with African leaders.

The United States and China have ongoing diplomatic discussions on these issues. China continues to expand its efforts to support peacekeeping operations in African nations.

Stephen Morrison, who addressed Congress at the second part of the U.S. Africa Command testimony on July 23, described talks between the United States and China as "very promising."

"Congress should take a step to loosen those constraints and to set incentives for AFRICOM and related agencies to enter a dialogue with the Chinese at this moment when they are making much bigger commitments in support of African peacekeeping," said Morrison.

The Department of Defense invited Chinese officials to Washington, D.C. to exchange information and ideas relating to security in Africa, Whelan said in her July 15 testimony. The date of the visit is not yet determined, but is expected to take place within the next few months.

According to Whelan, the agenda will include presentations by both the United States and China on how each nation views Africa and its major challenges. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the nations to share information and collaborate on issues that directly impact the safety and security in Africa.

"Stability and prosperity in Africa are important to the long-term interests of the United States because a secure and stable, healthy, and more prosperous Africa will contribute to global security and a stronger world economy," said Whelan in her testimony.

The two-part hearing on AFRICOM's progress and roles was held July 15 and 23 by the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Following are links to the complete transcripts:

July 15, 2008 Testimony - http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=1921
July 23, 2008 Testimony - http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=1948

For more on U.S. policy toward China, see:
China in Africa: Implications for U.S. Policy - http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2008/06/105556.htm

and,

U.S. Official Dispels "Alarmist Views" of China in Africa -
http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2007/February/200702161420311EJrehsiF0.6760828.html
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