US and Chinese Defense Chiefs Hold First Talks in 18 Months Amid Tensions

U.S. and China defense chiefs hold first substantive talks in 18 months, discussing regional security and preventing tensions from escalating.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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US and Chinese Defense Chiefs Hold First Talks in 18 Months Amid Tensions

US and Chinese Defense Chiefs Hold First Talks in 18 Months Amid Tensions

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a video teleconference with his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Dong Jun, on Tuesday, marking the first substantive talks between the defense chiefs of the two superpowers in nearly 18 months. The discussions focused on U.S.-China defense relations, regional and global security issues, and the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication to prevent tensions from spiraling out of control.

During the call, Austin reiterated the U.S. commitment to operating safely and responsibly in international waters, including the South China Sea, while Dong called for greater trust and stability between the two countries. The Taiwan issue and the South China Sea disputes were also discussed, with Dong emphasizing China's core interests and urging the U.S. to respect its territorial sovereignty.

Why this matters: The talks between Austin and Dong come at a critical juncture in U.S.-China relations, as both countries seek to manage rising tensions and prevent potential conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region. The resumption of high-level military dialogue is seen as an essential step in maintaining stability and reducing the risk of miscalculation between the two superpowers.

The meeting was the first substantive and official communication between Austin and a Chinese counterpart since November 2022, when he met with former Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Cambodia. The talks followed a series of other U.S.-China engagements dating back to December 2022, including meetings between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the People's Liberation Army General, as well as senior defense officials from both countries.

The Pentagon stated that it will continue to engage in active discussions with Chinese counterparts about future engagements between defense and military officials at multiple levels. The U.S. and China have recently resumed defense discussions, with the goal of preventing competition from escalating into conflict and maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Austin held first substantive talks with Chinese counterpart in 18 months.
  • Discussions focused on U.S.-China defense relations, regional security, and maintaining communication.
  • Austin reiterated U.S. commitment to operating safely in international waters, including South China Sea.
  • Talks aimed at managing rising tensions and preventing conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • U.S. and China resume defense discussions to prevent competition from escalating into conflict.