USA – China: Defense Heads Talk After 18 Months

Taiwan and shipping in the South China Sea were the main topics of conversation between the Pentagon chief and China's defense minister

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping resumed dialog last November in San Francisco, California, where the Beijing leader was traveling for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. This was followed by a telephone conversation between the two leaders and other contacts at various levels, including a recent trip to China by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Now the military chiefs have spoken after an 18-month hiatus caused by the crisis over a Chinese – presumably reconnaissance – balloon overflying the United States.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin held a conversation with Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun. Taiwan was clearly at the center of the debate. “It is at the center of China’s fundamental interests, China’s fundamental interests should not be harmed,” the Chinese minister said. “The People’s Liberation Army will never allow Taiwan’s separatist actions, condoning, and external support for it to get out of hand.”

Austin emphasized “the importance of keeping an open line of communication between the USA and China.” He reiterated the importance of “respecting the freedom of navigation on the high seas guaranteed by international law, especially in the South China Sea,” and reiterated that “the United States will continue to fly, sail, and act safely and responsibly wherever international law allows.”