On Thursday, China’s Defense Ministry said the US should reduce military activity in the Indo-Pacific region if it is sincere about reducing tensions. The comments came after reports said China rejected US attempts to set up high-level military talks.
Secretary of Lloyd Austin reportedly made three failed attempts to contact Xu Qiliang, the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. A Chinese military source told The South China Morning Post that Austin should have asked for Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, which could be part of why Beijing hasn’t responded.
When asked about US attempts to speak with China’s top military officials, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said, “The US cannot claim to want more defense hotlines on the one hand, while on the other hand continuing to increase military deployments in the Asia-Pacific and frequently conducting close-in reconnaissance of China — even deliberately initiating dangerous circumstances where vessels and aircraft nearly collide.”
US warships have been closely monitoring Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, and US spy planes are constantly buzzing near China’s coast. Last month, China’s Defense Ministry said this activity had increased under Biden. Tan called on the US to scale back its military activity.
“We call on the US to be consistent with its words and actions, show sincerity, increase communication and meet China halfway in order to manage differences and promote healthy and stable relations between our two militaries,” he said.
Tan said the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific policy “intentionally hypes up conflict and confrontation” by encouraging new military alliances and “cliques.” The US is boosting cooperation with the Quad, whose members are the US, India, Australia, and Japan. The Quad is seen as a possible foundation for a NATO-Style alliance in Asia.
Biden has made it clear that forming an anti-China military alliance is his goal. In his first address to Congress, Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US will militarize the Indo-Pacific “just as we do with NATO in Europe.”