China, US in talks on military relations amid strained ties

China, US in talks on military relations amid strained ties thumbnail

Defence officials from China and the US have held two days of talks in a small sign of progress amid a continuing sharp downturn in relations. The secure video conference held Tuesday and Wednesday was led by Maj Gen Huang Xueping, deputy direct of the People’s Liberation Army’s Office for International Military Cooperation, and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Michael Chase.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian on Thursday said the sides “exchanged in-depth views on relations between the two countries and the two militaries and issues of common concern.”

However, he blamed “continuous provocation and containment” of China by the US for the “considerable difficulties and challenges” between the two militaries.

“China’s sovereignty, dignity and core interests brook no violations,” Wu said at a monthly briefing.

“Regarding the relationship between the two armed forces, we welcome communication, welcome cooperation, face differences and oppose coercion.”

In a statement issued in Washington, Department of Defence spokesperson Lt. Col Martin Meiners said the meeting was “an important component of the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the US and the PRC by maintaining open lines of communication with the PRC.”

During the talks, he said the two sides held “a frank, in-depth, and open discussion on a range of issues.”

“Both sides reaffirmed consensus to keep communication channels open. The US side also made clear our commitment to uphold shared principles with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Relations between China and the US are facing the worst strain in decades over trade, technology, human rights and Chinese military activities in the South China Sea, where Beijing has built airstrips and other infrastructure atop man-made islands.

Military-to-military ties have been characterized by deep mistrust, with the US accusing China of a lack of transparency as it massively upgrades the capabilities of the PLA, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.

China has been angered by the Navy sending ships to sail close to islands it controls in what Washington calls freedom of navigation operations, along with US support for Taiwan.

President Joe Biden has maintained a tough line on China, but has sought better communication with Beijing. The talks between Huang and Chase are believed to mark the first direct high-level contact between defense officials under the Biden administration.

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