A spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry on Thursday outlined “obstacles” that are preventing the resumption of high-level military talks between the US and China.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu both attended the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore back in June. Beijing declined to hold a meeting between Austin and Li, primarily due to US sanctions that are imposed on the Chinese defense chief.
The US sanctioned Li in 2018, when he was in a lower-level position, and has refused to lift the measures since he became defense minister. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian outlined other issues impeding high-level military talks, including US support for Taiwan, and US military activity in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
Wu noted that while there have not been talks at the defense minister level, there are other communications between the US and Chinese militaries. “I want to clarify that military-to-military communication between China and the United States has not stopped,” he said at a press briefing, according to The South China Morning Post.
Wu said that Gen. Xu Qiling, deputy chief of China’s Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, attended a recent US-hosted military conference in Fiji, the 25th annual Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defense. While at the conference, which took place from August 14-16, Xu met with his American counterparts.
But Wu said that there were a series of “difficulties and obstacles” preventing talks between Austin and Li, including new forms of military aid the US recently approved for Taiwan, which is unprecedented since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979.
The US has always sold weapons to Taiwan but has never financed the purchases or provided them free of charge until this year. China is opposed to all US arms sales to Taiwan, and the new military aid especially angers Beijing.
Addressing US military activity in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, Wu said the US should “mind its own business.”
“China urges the US to stop its military provocations to prevent any extreme events that the world doesn’t want to see happening. We can only have communication and dialogue that is in line with our principles and does not go against our bottom lines,” he said.