Shangri-La dialogue: US and Chinese defense chiefs swap barbs on Taiwan in first face-to-face meeting

The United States is committed to its one-China policy, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, but he warned that the Chinese military has become increasingly aggressive , unsafe and unprofessional in the region, a US defense official said. the meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The US official said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) actions mirror recent statements by Chinese officials suggesting that Beijing may change the status quo regarding Taiwan, a democratically controlled island that China claims as its sovereign territory.

“Secretary Austin also raised concerns about … statements by PLA officials that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters. [People’s Republic of China] officials have said this repeatedly in the United States over the past few months and it is deeply concerning,” the official said.

Reacting specifically to US statements during a post-meeting briefing, a Chinese military spokesman said it was not Beijing that was upsetting a decades-old policy that has brought stability across the Taiwan Strait.

“It is not the mainland that is changing the status quo, it is Taiwan independence forces…and outside forces that are trying to change the status quo,” Colonel Wu Qian told a conference in press after the meeting.

A Chinese statement on the meeting said Wei specifically pointed to a recently announced $120 million US arms sale to the island. The new arms sale will cover “spare parts for warships and related technical assistance”, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The United States has again announced arms sales to Taiwan, which has seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it,” the statement said. Chinese statement.

The Taiwan issue took up most of Austin’s meeting with Wei, the US official said.


Russia’s war against Ukraine has also proven to be a contentious issue.

Austin urged his Chinese counterpart not to provide any material support to Russia, the US official said.

At China’s press conference after the meeting, Wu pointed out that China did not.

“China hasn’t provided military assistance to Russia. That’s for sure,” Wu said.

Despite these differences, Wu described the meeting, which lasted nearly an hour, almost twice as long as planned, as having “a good effect”.

It was “frank” but “positive and constructive”, he said.

The meeting came on Austin’s fourth trip to the Indo-Pacific region after an official request from Chinese military leaders.

The two men also spoke of the American desire to establish stronger lines of communication between the two armies to prevent competition between two world powers from turning into conflict. The official said Minister Wei was open to the idea of ​​establishing crisis communication mechanisms, suggesting that there may be more concrete results on these mechanisms later this year.

“I anticipate there would be additional open channels, including military-to-military channels, whether from INDOPACOM or the President [of the Joint Chiefs]. I think both sides are probably open to that in the coming months,” the official said.

Ahead of the meeting, a US defense official said Washington would try to establish lines of communication at the highest levels of the armies to avoid situations that would lead to conflict between the two Pacific powers. The United States also wants to see mechanisms for communication between commanders at the theater level, officials said.

“That has been a priority for us in the defense relationship,” the official said.

Wu, the Chinese spokesman, said the next steps in US-China relations will include conducting exchanges and discussing cooperation through military and diplomatic channels.

“The Chinese side thinks it is better to meet than not to meet, and it is better to talk than not to talk,” he said.

CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

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