China-US military talks seen as step forward

China Daily
Li Wei
2023-12-23 21:54:34


The direct talks between one of China's top military officers and his US counterpart on Thursday are widely seen as being a solid step toward concrete implementation of the consensus to resume the two militaries' communication and exchanges, a breakthrough achieved by the two nation's heads of state during their San Francisco summit last month.

According to a news release published by China's Ministry of National Defense, General Liu Zhenli, chief of staff of the Central Military Commission's Joint Staff Department, talked with his US counterpart, General Charles Brown, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via video link on Thursday — the highest-level direct interaction of the two militaries since then-speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made a provocative visit to China's Taiwan region in August last year.

During their talks, Liu told Brown that the Taiwan question is purely China's internal affair, which brooks no external interference, and the Chinese military will resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said that the US side should respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, be cautious with words and deeds, and take concrete actions to safeguard regional peace and stability, as well as the overall soundness of China-US relations.

Liu said that during their San Francisco meeting last month, President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden reached an important consensus on resuming communication and exchanges between the two militaries. The armed forces of both sides should carry out exchanges and cooperation on the basis of equality and respect and work together to help stabilize and improve bilateral relations.

The Chinese general said that in order to develop sound, stable and sustainable military-to-military relations, an important prerequisite is that the US side must have a correct understanding of China and should earnestly respect China's core interests and major concerns. He added that major efforts should be made to advance practical cooperation and enhance mutual understanding.

They also discussed other topics, which the ministry's news release did not elaborate on.

This was the first time the two generals have spoken since Brown was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October.

A readout from the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs said that in their video conversation, Brown discussed the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication.

A news report published on the website of the US Department of Defense quoted an anonymous "senior defense official" as saying that the talks between Brown and Liu "are the kinds of discussions that we need to have to try to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation. Having those open channels of communication, obviously, is a key part of that."

Song Zhongping, a military affairs commentator and retired PLA officer, said on Friday that China has clearly shown to the US its bottom lines and the responsibility is now on the US side for the improvement of bilateral military ties.

Song said: "It is the US that keeps provoking China and compromising the latter's interests. Without abolishing its hawkish policies toward China, talks will only be games of words and can hardly help to establish mutual trust in military affairs.

"The value in top officers' direct communication is that they serve to avoid miscalculations caused by encounters of front units."

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