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US, China to resume military-to-military dialogue in “coming months”: Llyod Austin in Singapore

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin at Shangri-La, Singapore (Photo credit: Reuters)

The United States and China will resume military-to-military communications “in the coming months,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun in Singapore on Friday.

Austin and Dong met here on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue to discuss US- China defence relations, as well as regional and global security issues, according to a readout on the meeting issued by the Pentagon.

The meeting marked the first face-to-face meeting between the US and Chinese Defence chiefs in 18 months and was held amidst a fraught regional backdrop.

China only days ago had conducted a large-scale, two-day military drill encircling Taiwan and Beijing’s efforts to aggressively assert disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, while decrying Washington’s efforts to strengthen security ties with key allies like Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, CNN reported.

During his meeting with his Chinese counterpart today, Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between the United States and China, the Department of Defence Press Secretary Pat Ryder said in a staement.

Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between the United States and China, the Department of Defence Press Secretary Pat Ryder said in a statement after the meeting.

Austin reaffirmed the announcement by US President Joe Biden with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in November 2023 that both sides will resume telephone conversations between theatre commanders in the coming months.

The US Defence Secretary welcomed plans to convene a crisis-communications working group by the end of the year, the US Department of Defence said.

Austin also expressed concern about the recent proactive Chinese military activity around the Taiwan Strait, and he reiterated that China should not use Taiwan’s political transition — part of a normal, routine democratic process– as a pretext for coercive measures. Taiwan held presidential election and the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te this month.

The US Defence official underscored that the United States remains committed to its longstanding one China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three US-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. He also reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Ausitn also made clear that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows. He underscored the importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation guaranteed under international law, especially in the South China Sea.

The top US defence official also discussed Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine and China’s role in supporting Russia’s defence industrial base. “The Secretary also expressed concerns about recent provocations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including its direct contributions to Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine,” the statement read.

Today’s meeting follows Austin’s April 16 video teleconference call with his Chinese counterpart.

Following the meeting Pentagon said the US officials will continue active discussions with their Chinese counterparts about future engagements between defence and military officials at multiple levels.

Defence chiefs and officials from around the world are attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum that began here today and will culminate on Sunday.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos is scheduled to deliver the Shangri-La Dialogue’s keynote speech later today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had delivered the key note speech at the forum in 2018. Previous keynote speakers have included Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.