Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liu Zhenli, in a video call on Thursday, marking the first high-level military talks between the US and China in over a year.
China halted such communications in August 2022 in response to then-House Speaker Nany Pelosi’s provocative trip to Taiwan. China also declined to hold a meeting earlier this year between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and former Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu because Li is under US sanctions, which the Biden administration refused to lift.
The Pentagon said that during the call between Brown and Liu on Thursday, the two leaders “discussed the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication.”
The Chinese Defense Ministry said that Liu called on the US to “earnestly respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.” In recent years, the US has significantly increased its military presence in the South China Sea and is strongly backing the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China.
The Brown-Liu conversation came about a month after President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the two leaders agreed to resume military dialogue. NBC News reported on Wednesday that Xi told Biden during the meeting that China will eventually “reunify” with Taiwan, preferably by peaceful means.
The NBC report caused a stir among China hawks in the US, but Xi was repeating what has been China’s official position for decades. Chinese officials often say they seek “peaceful reunification” but do not rule out using force. According to NBC, Xi also said predictions that China might invade Taiwan by 2025 or 2027 were wrong because he has not set a time frame.