U.S. and China Talk for First Time in Over a Year

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Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin | Image by Michael A. McCoy / PoolREUTERS

On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe. This is the first call between the two officials since Biden’s inauguration more than a year ago. According to U.S. News, John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated that the call was to discuss the war in Ukraine and other security issues.

Relations between the U.S. and China have been strained for some time now. The two superpowers disagree about human rights, China’s desire to reunite with Taiwan, and China’s military activity in the South China Sea.

According to U.S. News, “Despite the tensions and heated rhetoric, U.S. military officials have long sought to have open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to be able to mitigate potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.”

Austin has attempted to make communication efforts with his Chinese counterparts but was unsuccessful until Wednesday’s call.

Austin’s primary goal was to emphasize that Beijing does not need to aid Russia in its attack on Ukraine.

According to Bloomberg, a Chinese statement confirmed the call and stated that Wei urged the U.S. to refrain from aligning the Ukrainian crisis with China’s desire to unite with Taiwan. He also urged the U.S. to stop military provocations in the South China Sea.

In November of 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement saying that the U.S. stands with the Philippines and will hold China accountable for actions that go against the decision made by the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016. The decision restricted China from claiming a portion of the South China Sea as their own.

China reiterated that Russia’s actions toward Ukraine are not comparable to Beijing’s efforts to reunify Taiwan. According to the U.S. News, Wei told Austin that “Taiwan was a part of China and no one could change that.” Wei continued, “If the Taiwan issue were not handled properly, it would have a damaging impact on Sino-U.S. relations.”

The United States has no formal ties to Taiwan but is a primary supporter and arms supplier. The Taiwanese island is self-governed, and the Biden administration has boasted its rock-solid commitment to Taiwan.

As the war in Ukraine continues, the U.S. has made efforts to gain assurance that China will not align with Russia’s efforts. President Xi Jinping has not joined other nations as they impose sanctions on Russia but has spoken on territorial integrity and the principles of sovereignty.

China is decidedly strengthening its ties with Russia, according to Bloomberg. Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng desires for Russia and China to deepen their ties in various fields. The statement was made Monday in Beijing after meeting with Russian envoy Andrey Ivanovich Denisov, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.

Yucheng noted that the nations saw a nearly 30% jump in trade between them in the first 3 months of 2022. Yucheng stated that such growth demonstrated “the great resilience and internal dynamism of bilateral cooperation.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, exports from China to Russia took a dive, hitting their lowest level since mid-2020, according to data released last week.

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