US Defense Secretary Holds First Substantive Talks with Chinese Counterpart in 18 Months

US-China defense chiefs hold first substantive talks in 18 months, discuss regional security and preventing tensions from escalating into conflict.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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US Defense Secretary Holds First Substantive Talks with Chinese Counterpart in 18 Months

US Defense Secretary Holds First Substantive Talks with Chinese Counterpart in 18 Months

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held his first substantive talks with Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun in nearly 18 months via video teleconference on Tuesday. The two officials discussed US-China defense relations and regional and global security issues.

Austin emphasized the importance of continuing military-to-military communication between the US and China to prevent tensions from spiraling out of control. He reiterated that the US will continue to operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows, including in the South China Sea.

Dong called for greater trust between the two powers and said the military sphere is key to stabilizing the relationship. However, he also warned the US over Taiwan, which China claims as its own, stating that the Taiwan issue is the "core of China's core interests" and that the Chinese military "will never sit idly by" on "Taiwan independence" activities or external support for it. Dong urged the US to respect China's position on the South China Sea.

Why this matters: The talks come amid multiple points of contention between Washington and Beijing, including over Taiwan and the South China Sea. Maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication is seen as vital to preventing tensions from escalating into conflict.

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. Austin has repeatedly stressed the importance of military-to-military communications to prevent conflict, and there have been recent interactions between military officials from the US and China despite the tensions.

Key Takeaways

  • US-China defense chiefs held first substantive talks in 18 months
  • Discussed military-to-military communication to prevent tensions escalating
  • China called for greater trust, warned US over Taiwan and South China Sea
  • Talks amid multiple points of contention between Washington and Beijing
  • Maintaining open military communication seen as vital to prevent conflict