US defence secretary Austin discusses regional, global security issues with Chinese counterpart in first call since November 2022 – Times of India


WASHINGTON: US defence secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday spoke with his Chinese counterpart for the first time since November 2022, during which they discussed bilateral ties and underlined the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication, amidst Beijing’s aggressive manoeuvres in the Indo-Pacific. The video conference was the maiden communication between Austin and Admiral Dong Jun, China’s defence minister, who assumed charge in December last year.
It is also the first time the defence secretary has spoken at length with his Chinese counterpart since November 2022, when he met with the then-PRC (People’s Republic of China) minister of national defence, General Wei Fenghe, at the Asean defence ministers meeting-plus in Cambodia.
“Austin emphasised the importance of continuing to open lines of military-to-military communication between the United States and the PRC, following the 17th US-PRC Defence Policy Coordination Talks (DPCTs) in January 2024 and a round of working-level Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) talks in early April 2024,” Pentagon press secretary Pa Ryder said after the call between the two top officials.
The defence secretary reaffirmed the announcement by President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2023 that both sides will resume telephone conversations between theatre commanders.
He also reiterated that the US will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows, Ryder said.
During the call, Austin underscored the importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation guaranteed under international law, especially in the South China Sea. The Chinese military has been behaving assertively in the Indo-Pacific region, causing concerns in many global capitals.
“He also discussed Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine and expressed concerns about recent provocations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Ryder said.
“The Secretary also reiterated that the United States remains committed to our longstanding one-China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three US-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and he reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait,” he added.
The call follows Biden’s November 15 meeting with Chinese President Xi, as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr.’s call via video teleconference with his People’s Liberation Army counterpart on December 21, 2023.
Biden and Xi welcomed ongoing efforts to maintain open channels of communication and responsibly manage the relationship through high-level diplomacy and working-level consultations in the weeks and months ahead, a White House statement said after the two leaders’ meeting.


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