WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Pentagon official has held talks with the Chinese military for the first time since President Joe Biden took office in January to focus on managing risks between the two countries, a U.S. official said Friday.
For years, the United States has been at odds with China over its national security policy, and the Biden administration has called the rivalry with Beijing the “biggest geopolitical test” of the century.
Relations between China and the United States are on the rise, with the two largest economies in the world colliding from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military operations in the South China Sea.
Despite tensions and tumultuous speeches, U.S. military officials have long sought to open contact lines with their Chinese counterparts to defuse conflicts or deal with incidents.
Michael Chase, Undersecretary of Defense for China, spoke last week with Maj. Gen. Huang Xuping, deputy director of the International Military Cooperation Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army.
“(They) used the security telephone connection between the United States and the People’s Republic of China to hold a secure video conference today,” the U.S. official said.
The official added that Chase focused on “crisis and risk management”.
Officials said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had not yet spoken with his Chinese counterpart because there was a debate over who would represent the Chinese official.
Vice President Kamala Harris welcomes the US contest on Thursday and will not discuss the conflict with Beijing, but will discuss issues such as maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan claim parts of the South China Sea, which has gas fields and fishing grounds that pass through important shipping lanes.
Biden has stepped up sanctions against China over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Unlike his predecessor Donald Trump as president, Biden sought extensively to mobilize allies and allies to counter what the White House says are China’s increasingly coercive economic and foreign policies.
(Closed by Idris Ali). Editing by Sandra Mahler and Daniel Wallis
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