| 4 March 2024, Monday |

White House ‘eager’ to resume military talks with China

The White House wants to begin the military-to-military talks to ease tensions, but the United States and China have not yet resumed the negotiations that their leaders committed to at a big summit last month.

Speaking with reporters on Air Force One, White House spokesman John Kirby assured them that discussions will “reduce miscalculation and misunderstanding.”

But he said the talks may not be happening because China has not replaced General Li Shangfu, its former defense minister, who was dismissed in October and was the counterpart of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“It’s my understanding that they haven’t been restored and part of that could be because they don’t have a minister of defense,” said Kirby. “We certainly urge them to designate somebody soon and we’re eager to get those [communications] going.”

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed last month at a closely watched California summit to resume such contacts, which were severed after then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited self-ruled Taiwan in August 2022. China claims sovereignty over democratically governed Taiwan.

Taiwan said on Friday that 12 Chinese fighter jets and a suspected weather balloon had crossed the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive median line, in a ratcheting up of tensions about a month before the island’s presidential election.

Taiwan will hold the election on Jan. 13, a date Biden administration officials have been closely watching.

The Biden administration has said that it wants communications throughout the two countries’ militaries, including both senior leaders and commanders in specific geographic areas where conflicts happen.

The militaries of the U.S. and China have had a number of near-misses and acrimonious exchanges over the past year, from the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea.

  • Reuters