HomePoliticsUS defense chief speaks to his Chinese counterpart, Pentagon says

US defense chief speaks to his Chinese counterpart, Pentagon says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with China’s defense minister on Tuesday, the first engagement the two have had in more than a year as the two countries try to rebuild military ties.

The call comes as American President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have tried to keep tensions under control and after the two leaders resumed direct military talks last year.

In a readout after the call, the Pentagon said Austin “underscored the importance of respect for the freedom of navigation on the high seas guaranteed by international law, especially in the South China Sea.”

An escalating diplomatic row and recent maritime clashes between China and the Philippines, a US ally, have turned the highly strategic South China Sea into a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.

Before Biden and Xi’s meeting in November, relations between the superpowers had grown increasingly acrimonious, with friction over issues from Taiwan to China’s military activity in the South China Sea.

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In October, the US military said Chinese military aircraft had performed risky or reckless maneuvers near US aircraft nearly 200 times since 2021.

Since then, the United States’ top military general has spoken to his Chinese counterpart.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Susan Heavey and Franklin Paul)

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