US China envoy visits Pentagon for rare security-related talks

By Phil Stewart and David Brunnström

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s ambassador to the United States held a rare meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday with the top U.S. defense official for Asia, the Pentagon said, in talks that followed U.S. criticism regarding Chinese reluctance to engage in military communications.

A brief statement from the Pentagon said Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng discussed defense relations and “a range of international and regional security issues” during talks with Ely Ratner, US Assistant Secretary of Defense.

“Ratner also underscored the Department’s commitment to maintaining open military-to-military lines of communication between the United States and the PRC,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners said, using the acronym. from the official name of China.

The discussions lasted about 90 minutes, Meiners said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As US-China relations hit rock bottom over national security issues, including Taiwan, US export bans on cutting-edge technology and Chinese state-directed industrial policies, Washington has tried to restore ties between the two largest economies in the world.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China earlier this month and climate envoy John Kerry is due to visit next week. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing last month, the first trip to China by a US secretary of state since 2018.

But Beijing snubbed efforts by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to hold an in-depth meeting with his Chinese counterpart at a defense forum in Singapore last month, and military communications have stalled.

“We have regularly reached out to thicken our communication and crisis management channels with Beijing and they have pushed us back in series,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, said at a forum in London on 10 April. July.

China has publicly cited US sanctions as an obstacle to military dialogue. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been sanctioned since 2018 for buying planes and combat equipment from Russia’s top arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.

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 tell us, ‘If you don’t want crises, there’s a simple answer… Get out. Like, you’re not a Pacific power,” Kahl said. , adding that it was a strange thing to hear as someone from the Pacific Coast state of California.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, David Brunnstrom and Rami Ayyub; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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