Previous studies have suggested a sound chronological correlation between the Hulu Cave record (East Asian monsoon) and Greenland ice-core records, which implies a dominant control of northern hemisphere climate processes on monsoon intensity. We present an objective, straightforward statistical evaluation that challenges this generally accepted paradigm for sub-orbital variability. We propose a more flexible, global interpretation, which takes into account a broad range of variability in the signal structures in the Hulu Cave and polar ice-core records, rather than a limited number of major transitions. Our analysis employs the layer-counted Greenland Ice-Core Chronology 2005 (GICC05), which was developed for Greenland records and has since been applied - via methane synchronisation - to the high-resolution delta O-18(ice) series from EPICA Dronning Maud Land (EDML). The GICC05 chronology allows these ice-core records to be compared to the U-Th dated Hulu Cave record within relatively narrow (similar to 3%) bounds of age uncertainty. Following previous suggestions, our proposed interpretation suggests that the East Asian monsoon is influenced by a combination of northern hemisphere 'pull' (which is more intense during boreal warm periods), and southern hemisphere 'push' (which is more intense monsoon during austral cold periods). Our analysis strongly suggests a dominant control on millennial-scale monsoon variability by southern hemisphere climate changes during glacial times when the monsoon is weak overall, and control by northern hemisphere climate changes during deglacial and interglacial times when the monsoon is strong. The deduced temporally variable relationship with southern hemisphere climate records offers a statistically more plausible reason for the apparent coincidence of major East Asian monsoon transitions with northern hemisphere (Dansgaard-Oeschger, DO) climate events during glacial times, than the traditional a priori interpretation of strict northern hemisphere control. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.