On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Chinese counterpart for the first time since he took his post as Pentagon chief at the beginning of the Biden administration.
Austin held a call with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe after months of trying and failing to speak with Xu Qiliang, the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. Xu is said to have more influence, but Wei is considered to be Austin’s counterpart, and that is the protocol Beijing wants to stick with.
During the call, Wei reiterated Beijing’s stance on Taiwan, warning that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would “resolutely defend the national sovereign security and territorial integrity.” The call came after a delegation of US lawmakers led by Sen. Lindsey Graham visited Taiwan, angering Beijing, and leading to the PLA conducting military exercises in the region.
“The Taiwan issue, if not handled properly, will have a subversive impact on the relationship between the two countries,” Wei said, according to the Chinese Defense Ministry.
The Pentagon released a brief readout of the call that said it was a follow-up to a recent conversation between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was held on March 18. “Secretary Austin and General Wei discussed US-PRC defense relations, regional security issues, and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the Pentagon said.
Discussing the Ukraine war, Wei told Austin to stop using the issue to “slander, frame, threaten and pressure China.” Wei also said the US should stop military provocations in waters near China’s coast and called for the two countries to have better relations.