US urges military dialogue with China, despite rebuff to Blinken during Beijing trip

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The United States on Tuesday pressed its call for military communication channels with China despite that request being rebuffed during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing over the weekend.

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Establishing military-to-military communications was essential to reduce frictions between the two global powers, Sarah Beran, White House National Security Council senior director for China and Taiwan Affairs, told reporters in a briefing about the trip.

“This is an absolutely critical way for us to manage competition, crisis communication, ensure that there is not miscommunication or misperception about each other’s intentions,” Beran said.

“We remain willing and able at all levels to meet and call on China to respond appropriately to that.”

During Blinken’s visit, the first to China by a US secretary of state since 2018, the nations agreed to temper rivalries to avoid conflict but there were no breakthroughs.

China cited US sanctions as an obstacle to military dialogue which Blinken said he had repeatedly raised with his hosts and would continue to push for.

Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu has been sanctioned since 2018 over the purchase of combat aircraft and equipment from Russia’s main arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.

Global worries

Lack of open channels between both nations has prompted international jitters, with Beijing's reluctance to engage in regular military-to-military talks with Washington alarming China’s neighbors.

Speaking at the same briefing call on Tuesday, the US State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink said a successful and responsible management of the US-China relationship will only be possible if it is a “two-way street.”

Kritenbrink said asserting that all bilateral problems were caused by one party “simply doesn’t reflect reality.”

At one of the most significant US-China exchanges since US President Joe Biden took office, the two sides appeared entrenched over a multitude of issues from Taiwan to trade - including US actions toward China’s chip industry - plus human rights and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The most concrete result of the trip was a commitment to more diplomatic engagements with further high-level US visits in coming months, including possible trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

China’s Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu earlier this month declined an invitation to meet US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Shangri-La security summit.

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