U.S. and Chinese Defense Officials Meet in Bid to Cool Regional Tensions

U.S. and Chinese Defense Officials Meet in Bid to Cool Regional Tensions

SINGAPORE – In his first face-to-face meeting, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III And Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Feng warned each other of a dangerous move on Taiwan’s disputed island, even trying to strengthen checkpoints to prevent regional tensions from escalating into a crisis.

The meeting between Mr Austin and General V in Singapore on Friday came after a phone call in April, despite growing animosity between the two countries and fears that miscalculations could lead to a crisis. It was just another bilateral meeting.

The Pentagon said in a statement after the meeting that Mr. Austin “stressed the importance of the People’s Liberation Army, which is engaged in concrete talks to improve critical communications and reduce the strategic threat.” Mr Austin also told General Wei that the United States opposes any unilateral move to change Taiwan’s status – a sovereign island that Beijing claims as its own – and urged China to “relinquish” Taiwan’s status. Refrain from further destabilizing measures. “

However, General Wei blamed the United States for escalating tensions over Taiwan, telling Mr Austin that US arms sales on the island “severely damage China’s sovereignty and security interests,” according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. He said in the summary of his speech.

Since 1949, when nationalist forces fled China for Taiwan, the island’s status and future have been disputed. Beijing declares it an autonomous region. Most Taiwanese reject this claim and want to distance themselves from the People’s Republic of China – in fact, if not by law. Washington has long insisted that neither side should seek to unilaterally change Taiwan’s status, but that US legislation should support the island’s defense and potentially intervene in the event of a war. Also allows.

“Using Taiwan to control China will never succeed,” General Wei was quoted as saying by the Chinese government. “The Chinese government and military will resolutely break any scheme for Taiwan’s independence and will strongly defend the unity of the motherland.”

Despite the public outcry over Taiwan, both sides indicated that Mr Austin and General Wei had made some progress during their meeting, which lasted about an hour. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian told reporters in Singapore that the talks also covered the South China Sea – where Southeast Asian nations compete over China’s vast territorial claims – as well as the war in Ukraine.

Colonel Wu said that China has always believed that it is better not to meet and not to talk. He added that the talks were a “good start” for better coordination between the US and Chinese forces, the world’s largest and second largest military.

China is shifting its military power in Asia in ways that have sounded alarm bells in the region and in Washington. In recent days, US allies have complained about Chinese military aircraft. Harassing their planesFlying so close that pilots can see each other, or provocative, dangerous tactics, such as dropping a metal chaff in the path of an Australian plane. Last month, China and Russia held joint military exercises, sending bombers to the seas of Northeast Asia while President Biden was visiting the region.

“It is possible that the Chinese are examining US allies to see if they will back down,” said Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who studies US policy in Asia and participated in the Singapore dialogue. “They are more likely to test these other countries to see if they are less risky.”

But Taiwan is probably the biggest source of tension between the United States and China. US officials and military commanders fear that Chinese leader Xi Jinping may be ready to fight Taiwan in the coming years. President Biden has. Pointed several times That if Beijing attacked, the United States would step in with military assistance to defend Taiwan. China has stepped up its military activities near Taiwan in recent years, sending jets to enter its air defense zone.

A report released by a British think tank at the Singapore forum of the International Institute for Strategic Studies states that “in the short to medium term, Taiwan’s conflict is likely to be more accidental than design.” “Indeed, as Chinese repression on Taiwan intensifies, the risk of inadvertent escalation increases.”

China has reacted angrily to Washington’s support for Taiwan, including its plans. Strengthening trade relations with the islandHe was accused of fomenting tensions in the region. Chinese officials have also pushed back the Biden administration’s wider coalition efforts to counter China. The Chinese government has condemned it. Security agreement Last year between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which will help deploy Australia. Nuclear-powered submarinesIt raises expectations that it will engage in any military conflict with Beijing.

The threat of a confrontation has increased as China’s military expands into the world’s second-largest military, competing with the United States in naval size, and Beijing has become increasingly concerned about the US military presence throughout Asia.

But disagreements over Covid’s sanctions and meeting arrangements, such as who will be Mr Austin’s counterpart, are an obstacle to high-level talks between Chinese and US military leaders.

Despite their similar titles, Mr. Austin and General V occupy very different ranks. Mr. Austin is the most senior U.S. citizen at the Pentagon. The Chinese defense minister is in a relatively junior position, whose main job is overseas contacts. Mr Austin has yet to meet with Mr Xi, the Chinese leader who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, or other high-ranking commission commanders.

Nevertheless, experts attending the forum in Singapore valued the meeting between the two men. Over the past few decades, China and the United States have developed a patchwork of agreements and communication lines aimed at avoiding misunderstandings as well as conflicts at sea or in the air that could turn into wider conflicts. But Beijing and Washington are not looking at ways to reduce those risks.

Eric Schmidt reports from Washington.

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