US Admiral says China has curbed ‘dangerous’ military acts after Xi met Biden

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A top US defense official said China has stopped “dangerous military actions in the air and at sea” in the weeks since President Xi Jinping met with his US counterpart Joe Biden, suggesting tensions are easing.

“We’ve also been worried about close intercepts and dangerous acts in the air and in the maritime environment. I will tell you that I’ve had none of those since the meeting,” Admiral John Aquilino, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told reporters in Tokyo on Monday. “If that trend continues, that would be incredibly beneficial.”

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That development suggests relations between the world’s two largest economies are improving after Biden and Xi met in San Francisco in November for the first time in a year.

Restoring high-level military communications was a priority during those talks. Such links had been severed in 2022 after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which also led China to ramp up military drills around the island.

Asked on Tuesday about Aquilino’s comments, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry reiterated the country’s stance on US military actions.

“As a principle, China always firmly opposes US aircraft frequent close reconnaissance on China,” Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing.

Aquilino told reporters on Monday that his freedom of navigation operations “have been consistent.” The US conducts such maneuvers to demonstrate its right to fly and sail through what it considers international waters and airspace.

There are still other signs that relations between the two nations remain precarious. US officials said China agreed during the Xi-Biden sit-down to policy-level discussions with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. But Beijing has yet to name a replacement for ousted Defense Minister Li Shangfu.

Aquilino, meanwhile, said he’s asked China for nearly three years — including after the Xi-Biden summit — to speak with his Chinese counterpart, to no avail.

The admiral also criticized China’s actions involving the Philippines and Australia. Tensions between Beijing in the region involving those two countries have escalated in recent months.

“This is about deeds, this is not about words,” he said. “I would love to see that behavior change.”

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