Asia & Pacific

US & China Wrap Up Military Talks Amid Upcoming Taiwan Regional Elections

The Pentagon building in Washington, DC

An agreement to recommence US-China military communications was one of the deliverables of a meeting between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California in November 2023. The Pentagon argued that the absence of such channels heightened “the risk of an operational incident or miscalculation.”Washington and Beijing have concluded two days of military talks at the Pentagon.Michael Chase, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, met with China’s Major General Song Yanchao, deputy director of the central military commission office for international military cooperation, according to US Defense Department readout.Per the Pentagon, Michael Chase reiterated the importance of keeping lines of military-to-military communication open in order to “prevent competition from veering into conflict.” Besides “operational safety across the Indo-Pacific region,” other regional and global security issues were also discussed amid spiraling tensions between the sides over Taiwan.After the talks, Beijing reiterated, however, that amid its posturing on the need for such military contacts, the US should first put an end to its “provocative actions” in the South China Sea, abide by the One China principle, stop arming Taiwan, and not support a Taiwanese self-proclamation attempt.

"The United States should fully understand the root causes of the maritime and air security issues, strictly restrain its front-line forces, and stop hyping up (the issues)," China's Ministry of National Defense was cited as stating.

While continuing to hype the alleged “China threat” and to seek deeper military ties with Taipei, Washington was angling for a resumption of military contacts with Beijing throughout last year.

Officially known as the US-PRC (People's Republic of China) Defense Policy Coordination Talks, they were last held virtually in 2021. Beijing suspended military communications channels with Washington last year to protest a controversial visit by then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, governed independently of mainland China, but regarded by the PRC as its province.

The US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has repeatedly stressed that the matter is “a priority” for Joe Biden. Sullivan clarified that the Biden administration needs “those lines of communication so that there aren’t mistakes or miscalculations or miscommunication.”After meeting in the US late in 2023, President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to resume the military ties. Following that, US General Charles Q. Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart, General Liu Zhenli.WorldBiden Wants Xi to Revive ‘Priority’ Issue of US-China Military Channels13 November 2023, 07:05 GMTThe military sit-down between the two sides came against the backdrop of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s secret hospitalization scandal, which raised questions about who was in charge of the nation’s defense and security for over a week.Furthermore, the talks were held as Taiwan is holding regional leadership elections this weekend.

Taiwan will hold the polls on January 13, 2024. In April, Taiwan's ruling DPP officially nominated its chairman, Lai Ching-te, as the party's leadership candidate. Taiwan's incumbent leader, Tsai Ing-wen, is no longer eligible for reelection, as she has already served two consecutive terms as the island's president.

Last year, Beijing warned Washington against interfering in Taiwan’s election, which is “China’s internal affair,” adding that “interference by outside forces is unacceptable.” “The US must fulfill its promises, stop sending false signals to pro-independence forces in Taiwan, and stop interfering in Taiwan’s elections,” Zhu Fenglian, the spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council, said late in December.The strain between mainland China and Taiwan, as well as US collaboration with Taiwan, intensified following a visit to the island by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August 2022. China denounced Pelosi’s visit, interpreting it as an endorsement of separatist movements, and responded by conducting extensive military drills near Taiwan.Additionally, the situation has been further aggravated by the United States’ frequent dispatch of warships and reconnaissance aircraft to the Strait of Taiwan. Beijing has slammed these actions as provocative and labels the US as “a security risk creator in the region.”WorldXi Jinping Tells Biden Beijing Will Reunify Taiwan With China21 December 2023, 03:38 GMT

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