US-China Mend Defense Links

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe walk to meeting room prior to meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo Isa Rohany

SIEM REAP – Top Chinese and US defense officials have met in Cambodia and agreed to rebuild relationships after talks this month between presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden eased tensions.

Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe met US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Siem Reap on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Siem Reap on Nov. 22.

A spokesman for the Chinese side said they spoke of "concrete measures to implement the important consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Biden."

"It is of great significance for bringing back the China-US, as well as mutual relations, back to healthy and stable development.

"It has been a strategic communication that was sincere, in depth, practical and constructive."

A US spokesperson said Austin emphasized the need to responsibly manage competition and maintain open lines of communication. 

"The Secretary also discussed the importance of substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk, improving crisis communications, and enhancing operational safety."

Simmering tensions between the big powers eased on Nov. 14 when Biden and Xi Jinping discussed topics including Taiwan and North Korea in a three-hour meeting at the G20 in Jakarta.

Wide differences remained over human rights and the Russian invasion of Ukraine but the leaders promised to communicate more often. 

Wei and Austin agreed in Siem Reap that the two miltaries should implement the important consensus between the two heads of state, keep the lines of communication open and handle differences properly, according to the Chinese account of the talks.

Both stressed crisis management to maintaian a stable military to military relationship. 

Wei pointed out that during the G20 summit, Xi and Biden reached consensus on the direction of China-US relations.

However, the Chinese side said the US should respect China's core interests and major concerns.

Wei reiterated China's firm stance on Taiwan, which was at the centre of China's core interests and was the most dangerous red line that could not be crossed in China-US relations. 

Taiwan was part of China and it was a matter for the Chinese to solve the Taiwan question, he said. No foreign meddling or interference would be tolerated.

Austin reiterated that the US was committed to its one China policy and opposed unilateral changes to the status quo.

He urged China to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan.

He also discussed Russia's war against Ukraine and spoke of how both the US and China oppose the use of nuclear weapons or threats to use them. 

He expressed concerns about recent North Korean provocations and urged China to fully enforce UN Security Council resolutions on the North's weapons programs.

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