China’s ambassador to the U.S. held a rare meeting with the top U.S. defense official for Asia at the Pentagon on Wednesday, the Pentagon said, in talks that followed U.S. criticism of China’s control of military communications.
Chinese Ambassador Xi Feng discussed defense ties and “a number of international and regional security issues” in conversations with US Undersecretary of Defense Eli Ratner, according to a Pentagon briefing.
“Radner also underscored the department’s commitment to open military communications between the United States and the People’s Republic of China,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Mayners said, using an abbreviation of China’s official name.
Meiners said the negotiation lasted about 90 minutes.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Washington has sought to strengthen ties between the world’s two largest economies as U.S.-China relations falter over national security issues including Taiwan, a U.S. export ban on advanced technologies and China’s state-led industrial policy.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China earlier this month, and climate envoy John Kerry is expected to visit next week. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Beijing last month, the first visit by a US secretary of state to China since 2018.
But Beijing rejected US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s attempt to hold an in-depth meeting with his Chinese counterpart at a defense forum in Singapore last month.
“We have consistently reached out to Beijing to strengthen our crisis communication and crisis management channels, but they have consistently rebuffed us,” Colin Kall, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, told a forum in London on July 10.
China has publicly indicated that US sanctions are an obstacle to military talks. Since 2018, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has approved the purchase of fighter jets and equipment from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter.
But Kahl said in London that China seemed concerned that Washington would use crisis management channels “so we can have more crises.”
“When we have these conversations with them, they say, ‘If you don’t want crises, there’s a simple answer…get out. You’re not a power in the Pacific,'” Cal said. It’s an odd thing to hear coming from the coastal state of California.
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