US defense secretary holds first call with Chinese counterpart since entering office

“Secretary Austin and General Wei discussed US-PRC defense relations, regional security issues, and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the Pentagon said in a readout of Wednesday’s call.

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a rare call with his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday, the Pentagon said, with part of the discussion on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This appears to be the first call between the two since Austin entered office. China has repeatedly rejected Washington’s efforts to arrange a call.

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The Pentagon said Austin and Wei Fenghe spoke “as a follow-up to the recent call between President Biden and Xi Jinping.”

Biden and Xi spoke last month as the US president warned Beijing that there would be severe consequences for helping Russia militarily or economically during its war on Ukraine.

“Secretary Austin and General Wei discussed US-PRC defense relations, regional security issues, and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the Pentagon said in a readout of Wednesday’s call.

For its part, China said the phone call touched on the contentious issue of Taiwan, which Beijing said would have negative impacts on ties between the US and China.

Washington has stepped up its support for Taiwan, with American lawmakers making several trips to Taiwan in recent months.

Read more: Taiwan’s security as tech hub is of global concern, visiting US senator says

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