US and China defence ministers in first vital contact since 2022

Keep knowledgeable with free updatesSimply signal as much as the US-China relations myFT Digest — delivered on to your inbox.US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken to his Chinese language counterpart for the primary time, within the newest effort to ease tensions between the militaries since President Joe Biden held a summit with Xi Jinping final 12 months.The Pentagon mentioned Austin spoke on Tuesday to Dong Jun, a retired admiral who turned defence minister in December. It was the primary vital minister-level engagement between the militaries since November 2022.The decision is the newest effort to stabilise ties since Xi, the president of China, agreed in San Francisco to renew army engagements that China halted after then-US Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022. It additionally comes as US secretary of state Antony Blinken prepares to go to China within the coming weeks.A senior US defence official mentioned the decision and different engagements “present us with alternatives to stop competitors from veering into battle by talking candidly about our issues”, which he mentioned included the South China Sea and peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait.The Pentagon mentioned the 2 officers mentioned a spread of regional and international security points and that Austin had confused the significance of the liberty of navigation that’s assured beneath worldwide legislation, particularly within the South China Sea.Austin met then-defence minister Wei Fenghe in Cambodia two years in the past. Wei was succeeded by Li Shangfu in March 2023, however Beijing refused to arrange a gathering with Austin until Washington eliminated sanctions imposed on Li by the Trump administration in 2018.On the Shangri-La Dialogue defence discussion board in Singapore in June 2023, Austin and Li exchanged pleasantries once they have been seated on the similar desk at a dinner. However Li disappeared from sight shortly after returning to China and was ousted in October in reference to a corruption probe.In a single signal of decrease tensions for the reason that San Francisco summit, Chinese language fighter jets have stopped the “dangerous and coercive” intercepts that contain harmful manoeuvres round US spy planes. However the Pentagon stays very involved about Chinese language behaviour across the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed reef within the South China Sea. In latest months, the Chinese language coastguard has tried to cease the Philippines from resupplying marines on a ship referred to as the Sierra Madre that’s lodged on the reef.Manila grounded the ship in 1999 to strengthen its declare to the reef. Chinese language coastguards have used water cannons to dam the resupply missions, injuring Filipino sailors. Biden final week warned China that the US-Philippines mutual defence treaty utilized to the Sierra Madre.Earlier this month, US officers from Indo-Pacific command met Chinese language officers for the Navy Maritime Consultative Settlement talks which might be designed to cut back the potential for accidents between the militaries. US and Chinese language defence policy officers additionally restarted a beforehand routine dialogue in January. And in December, Common CQ Brown, the chairman of the US joint chiefs, held his first name together with his counterpart, Common Liu Zhenli.However the senior defence official on Monday mentioned China nonetheless had not agreed to arrange a gathering between the top of Indo-Pacific command, Admiral John Aquilino, and his two counterparts within the Folks’s Liberation Military.

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