Conflicts - TensionsNortheast Asia

U.S., Chinese military officials resume talks

The Associated Press

United States and Chinese military officials have resumed talks frozen since mid-2022, a development U.S. officials said is key to keeping competition between the nations from turning into conflict.

During the deputy-level talks at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in Washington, D.C., in January 2024, officials discussed setting future meetings, including potentially between the nations’ top defense officials.

The face-to-face meetings came three weeks after a videoconference call between U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his counterpart in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Gen. Liu Zhenli, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Joint Staff, which marked the first senior military communications between the nations in 16 months.

The PLA cut off military dialogue after a U.S. Congressional delegation visited Taiwan, the self-governed island that the PRC claims as its territory and threatens to annex by force.

At the two-day talks in January, Michael Chase, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, Taiwan and Mongolia, met with a PLA delegation headed by Maj. Gen. Song Yanchao, deputy director of the Central Military Commission for international military cooperation.

Chase discussed operational safety in the Indo-Pacific and the U.S.’s commitment to “our longstanding ‘One China’ policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act,” the DOD said.

“The [Defense] Department will continue to engage in active discussions with PRC counterparts about future engagements between defense and military officials at multiple levels,” according to the statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping agreed to resume military communications at their November 2023 summit in San Francisco. At the time, however, the PRC did not have a defense minister after the abrupt and unexplained removal of Li Shangfu. Dong Jun, a former PLA Navy commander, recently was appointed defense minister.

Ahead of the January meetings, a senior U.S. defense official said while the resumption of talks is a good sign, “we’re clear-eyed” that significant differences remain, including over Beijing’s intentions toward Taiwan.

While military-to-military communications were frozen, the PLA increasingly conducted coercive and risky intercepts of U.S., Ally and Partner aircraft and ships in the Indo-Pacific, the DOD reported recently. However, Beijing “denied, canceled or ignored” communications and meetings with U.S. defense officials, raising “the risk of an operational incident or miscalculation spiraling into crisis or conflict.”

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