US and Chinese military officials held maritime safety talks earlier this month where China urged the US to stop deploying ships and planes to the South China Sea, The South China Morning Post reported Thursday.
Officials from US Indo-Pacific Command, US Pacific Fleet, and US Pacific Air Forces held virtual talks with officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from December 15th to the 17th, PLA spokesman Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said.
Since 1998, the two militaries have held annual safety meetings. But in 2020, the talks were canceled, and both sides blamed the other for the cancelation.
Tan said the focus of this year’s meeting was the implementation of the Rules of Behaviour for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters, an agreement signed in 2015. Tan said the US military presence in the South China Sea is the reason for the tensions in the region.
“The prolonged and intensive reconnaissance and exercises by the US military ships and aircraft and their frequent provocative activities are the source of Sino-US maritime and aerial security risks,” he said. “Cessation of hostile naval and aerial operations by the US is the fundamental solution to the Sino-US military security issues.”
Over the past few years, US military activity in the South China Sea has significantly increased as tensions between the two powers have soared. In the month of November, the US flew 94 surveillance flights over the disputed waters, a record high since a Beijing-based think tank began tracking such flights in 2019.