China and the US are preparing to hold high-level military talks amid heightened tensions over Taiwan and other issues, The South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
Sources told the Post that following the recent virtual summit between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two leaders ordered their militaries to set up high-level talks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Xu Qiliang, the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.
The report said details and a format have not been finalized, but the two sides are considering a telephone call or a virtual meeting sometime in January. Earlier this year, the Biden administration wanted to set up high-level military talks with Beijing, but there was some confusion over who Austin should talk to. The US wanted Austin to speak with Xu while China thought he should talk to Wei.
Over the past year, the US has significantly increased military activity in the South China Sea and other sensitive areas near China’s coast. With so many US warplanes and warships operating near China’s military, many observers fear an accident could lead to a broader conflict and hope the two sides can set up better communication lines to mitigate the risks.
Biden and Xi also agreed to begin discussions on arms control, although US officials have been clear that the process is in a preliminary stage. Before the summit, the US tried to get China to participate in trilateral arms control talks with Russia, but Beijing has little motive to do so since its nuclear arsenal is a fraction of what Washington and Moscow possess.