The US Attempts To Thaw Frozen Defense Talks With China
US Assistance Defense Secretary 'Concerned'
In a recent statement, Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, highlighted the lack of direct communication between the United States and China's military leadership, the U.S. Defense Department posted on October 5.
Ratner revealed that Beijing had declined multiple invitations to engage in direct talks with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other department officials.
Expressing concern, Rather discussed the current state of military relations between the two countries, stating that they were not where they needed to be. He emphasized the importance of open lines of communication and called for substantive conversations between senior defense officials.
Over the past year, direct talks between the Chinese and US militaries have been largely frozen. Ratner acknowledged that there had been some new openings in communication but stressed the need for more substantial dialogue to manage potential crises.
The strained military relations can be traced back to a series of events. In August 2022, Beijing severed three main military communication channels with Washington after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed restoring these channels during his visit to Beijing in June, but Chinese leader Xi Jinping rejected the offer.
The last direct interaction between the US and Chinese defence chiefs took place in November during a meeting in Cambodia. Ratner mentioned a meeting in August between Admiral John Aquilino, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, and a senior People's Liberation Army (PLA) official at a conference in Fiji as one of the recent openings. However, he noted that the political, military, and operational dialogues between the two countries were not yet fully operational.
China has denied accusations of being uncooperative and incommunicative. Wu Qian, the defence ministry spokesman, stated on September 28 that Chinese officials were ready to engage in dialogue. However, the lack of direct communication with US defence officials suggests otherwise.
It remains to be seen whether the two countries can bridge this communication gap and restore a more productive relationship. The need for substantive talks between defence leaders is crucial in managing potential crises and maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
As tensions between the United States and China persist, establishing effective lines of communication is essential to prevent misunderstandings and miscalculations that could escalate into conflicts.
The Pentagon will continue to push for open channels of communication with the PLA, recognizing the importance of dialogue in addressing mutual concerns and building trust. The international community will closely monitor the developments in US-China military relations, hoping for a breakthrough that can pave the way for a more cooperative and peaceful future.