By Enyichukwu Enemanna
US President, Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping on Wednesday agreed to restore some military-to-military communications between their armed forces.
According to an AP report, the two leaders met for hours on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, United States.
Both sides pledged cooperation that would bring the US and China closer to resuming regular talks under what’s known as the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement, which until 2020 had been used to improve safety in the air and on the sea.
“That’s been cut off. That’s been worrisome,” Biden said at a news conference after his meeting with Xi. “So we’re back to direct, open, clear, direct communication.”
A senior U.S. official said the military communication agreements mean that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin can meet with his Chinese counterpart once that person is named. The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
Xi said he and Biden agreed to resume high-level military dialogues on the basis of equity and respect, according to a statement released by China Central Television, the state broadcaster.
The agreement comes after U.S. military leaders had expressed repeated concerns about the lack of communications with China, particularly as the number of unsafe or unprofessional incidents between the two nations’ ships and aircraft has spiked.
According to the Pentagon’s recent report on China’s military power, Beijing has “denied, canceled or ignored” military-to-military communications and meetings with the Pentagon for much of last year and this year. The report warns that the lack of such talks “raises the risk of an operational incident or miscalculation spiraling into crisis or conflict.”
The U.S. views military relations with China as critical to avoiding any missteps and maintaining a peaceful Indo-Pacific region.
The U.S. and Chinese militaries have for years had a frosty relationship over trust issues.
While Washington was concerned about Beijing’s dramatic and rapid military growth, China was suspicious of America’s expanding presence in the region.
Direct military contacts with Beijing deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to travel restrictions and tensions grew over China’s potential responsibility for the deadly.
In August 2022, Beijing suspended all military contacts with the U.S., in the wake of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Pelosi was the highest-ranking American lawmaker to visit Taiwan since 1997, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich traveled there. Beijing has repeatedly claimed that Beijing is its territory.
Beijing dispatched warships and aircraft across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, claiming the de facto boundary did not exist, fired missiles over Taiwan itself, and challenged established norms by firing missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.