By Haley Britzky, CNN
(CNN) — United States and Chinese officials met Monday and Tuesday at the Pentagon to discuss relations between the two countries, the Pentagon announced in a news release on Tuesday, including military-to-military communication and the “importance of operational safety across the Indo-Pacific region.”
The talks, between the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Dr. Michael Chase and China’s Deputy Director of the Central Military Commission Office for International Military Cooperation Maj. Gen. Song Yanchao, were held this year after two years of cancellations by China. The meetings have been happening since 2005; the last in-person meeting was January 2020 in Beijing.
“It’s an important step … we’re clear eyed, and I would emphasize that these are routine annual talks, or at least that’s how we view them,” a senior defense official said ahead of the calls last week.
The official said China canceled the talks in 2022 following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island that China’s ruling Communist Party claims as its own territory, despite never having never controlled it.
“But we would ordinarily expect these to be talks that we would have at this level annually,” the US official added.
Tuesday’s release from the Pentagon said Chase reaffirmed that the US would “continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows; and underscored that the U.S. commitment to our allies in the Indo-Pacific and globally remains ironclad.” It also said that Chase reiterated the US’ commitment to the “One China” policy.
A readout published by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV afterward said China was willing to develop healthy and stable military ties with the US on the basis of “equality and respect,” and the US should heed China’s concerns and engage in efforts conductive to ties of both militaries.
In the meeting, China stressed that it will not give in on the Taiwan question, and asked the US to cease arming Taiwan and to oppose Taiwan independence. Beijing also urged the US to stand down on its military deployments and “provocations” in the South China Sea, the readout said.
As part of the meeting, the defense official said last week that the two sides would plan out military-to-military exchanges for the rest of the year — a schedule which could include long-awaited talks between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and new Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun.
“In terms of the (China) being unwilling or reluctant to engage reliably at times of crisis, I think, as you all know, that’s a long-standing issue,” the official said. “We’re definitely clear eyed about that here. We have, in the past, had discussions with them about the importance of crisis communications, crisis management — they, of course, prefer to talk about what they refer to as crisis prevention — but certainly that’s been a topic of discussion, and I think is likely to continue to be one in the future.”
The talks this week follow a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in November, which Biden characterized as “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.”
“The Department will continue to engage in active discussions with (Chinese) counterparts about future engagements between defense and military officials at multiple levels,” the Pentagon said Tuesday.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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