China still open to defense chief dialogue with US

CHINA and the US are “communicating and coordinating” with each other on bilateral exchanges on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), the Chinese Defense Ministry said on Sunday morning, as experts said that to what extent the meeting will bring positive results , which can benefit regional and world peace and stability, depends on whether the US military will implement US President Joe Biden’s reaffirmed pledge not to seek conflict with China.

“The Chinese side has a positive and open attitude to exchanges with the US side during the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus,” said Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, when responding to a question that if defense ministers from the two countries would hold talks on the sidelines of ADMM-Plus in Cambodia. Tan said the relevant departments on the two sides “maintain communication and coordination” in this regard.

Earlier Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced that Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe will attend the 9th ADMM-Plus and visit Cambodia from Sunday to Thursday at the invitation of Phnom Penh.

Wei will deliver a speech at the conference and hold meetings with the heads of delegations from some participating countries on the sidelines, exchange views on international and regional situations and defense security cooperation, the ministry said in a statement. Wei will also meet and hold talks with Cambodian state and military leaders during his visit to the country, the statement said.

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Zhuo Hua, an international affairs expert at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Global Times on Sunday that if Wei’s meeting with US Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd takes place during the ADMM-Plus, it means that both sides are implementing the consensus to keep open strategic dialogue that the two countries’ top leaders reached on the sidelines of the just-completed Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

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Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, said Global Times that the meeting between the presidents of the two countries was indicative of the exchanges between China and the United States to achieve new breakthroughs in various fields.

“The meeting between the defense chiefs is positive because even if the two sides cannot realize agreements on some specific issues, they can at least make joint efforts in dealing with potential risks and dangers,” Li noted.

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“The US Department of Defense desperately wants military diplomacy with China to cover the operational level of war, and the Chinese military has always maintained the tradition of ensuring regional and world peace through military diplomacy, so China has a proactive and open attitude to communication and coordination with defense departments in various countries around the world, including the United States,” Zhuo said.

Although the meeting between the Chinese and US defense chiefs meets the expectations of the two countries and the international community, “we should be cautious about the outcome of the dialogue, because since Biden came to power, we found that the US military has failed to implement their President’s positive pledge in some operations to keep US-China ties away from conflict and a new Cold War,” Zhuo said.

On issues such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan issue, both sides will definitely communicate, but these issues between the two major powers cannot be resolved in the short term. During their upcoming exchanges, the Chinese side can emphasize the importance and sensitivity of relevant issues to strengthen the understanding of where the bottom line is in the minds of the US side, Li said.

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Duplicity is a long-standing problem for the US military, as even if it sometimes controls its hostile and provocative tones to prevent it from angering China too much, its military operations to contain China and threaten China’s sovereignty and national security have never stopped , Zhuo said. “This makes it very difficult for the two sides to build mutual trust,” Zhuo noted.

The US desire to have military diplomacy with China is based on assumptions about how to handle conflicts and crises if the two sides have military friction one day, but China is looking at how to fundamentally ensure and improve peace and stability for the region and the world, so China wants to build a crisis management mechanism based on real political and strategic mutual trust, Zhuo told Global Times.

“Therefore, if the US military sincerely wants to work with the Chinese side to jointly manage military ties between the two countries, they should work with their Chinese counterparts to meet each other halfway,” Zhuo said.

This article was first published in Global Timeson November 20, 2022. The Global Times is an English-language Chinese tabloid under Folkets Dagbladthe flagship newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

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