US and China will resume military-to-military talks in the “coming months”: Lloyd Austin in Singapore

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

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

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Austin and Dong discussed US-China defence relations as well as regional and global security issues during the Shangri-La Dialogue here, according to details of the meeting released by the Pentagon.

The meeting was the first face-to-face meeting between the US and Chinese defence chiefs in 18 months and was held amid a tense regional backdrop.

China has carried out a massive two-day military exercise encircling Taiwan, reports CNN, just days after the US condemned Beijing's efforts to aggressively assert disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and criticised Washington's efforts to strengthen security ties with key allies such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

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, Defense Department Press Secretary Pat Ryder said in a statement.

Defense Department press secretary Pat Ryder said in a statement after the meeting that Austin stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between the United States and China.

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

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

Austin also expressed concern about recently increased Chinese military activity around the Taiwan Strait, and he reiterated that China should not use Taiwan's political transition — which is part of a normal, regular democratic process — as an excuse for coercive measures. Taiwan held presidential elections this month and sworn in President Lai Ching-te.

The US defense official stressed that the US remains committed to its long-standing One China policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three US-China Joint Communiqués, and the Six Assurances. He also reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

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

The top US defense official also discussed Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine and China's role in supporting Russia's defense industrial base. “The Secretary also expressed concern about recent provocative actions by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), including its direct contribution to Russia's ongoing attack on Ukraine,” the statement said.

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

After the meeting, the Pentagon said that US officials will continue to have active discussions with their Chinese counterparts about future activities between defense and military officials at various levels.

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

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue later today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the keynote address at the forum in 2018. Previous keynote speakers include Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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