Chinese-US military dialogue channels open amid tensions, but US shows unwillingness to talk: source

By Guo Yuandan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/9 23:23:40

The guided-missile frigates Meizhou (Hull 584) and Liu Panshui (Hull 514) attached to a frigate flotilla with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command steam in line astern formation during a maritime realistic training exercise in waters of the South China Sea on July 13, 2020.Photo:China Military

Communication channels between the Chinese and US militaries remain open despite tensions, the Global Times learned from source, but some experts warned of the possibility of a collapse due to the US' refusal to talk. 

Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao on Friday quoted Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for the South China Sea Studies, as saying that bilateral crisis management and control mechanisms between China and the US were nearly suspended amid all-out confrontation between the two sides, which could lead to misfires if soldiers on both sides clash at sea.   

However, the Global Times learned from related source that the Chinese and US militaries maintain phone calls between high-level officials, and communication channels between defense attaches are also open. 

Various dialogues between different departments on the two sides are also being carried out, the Global Times learned. 

But communications between the Chinese and US governments have sharply dropped in the past year for various reasons, such as the two governments not revealing their communications to the public, some expert said.  

In the military field, many communications were suspended due to the pandemic, some experts with an insight told the told the Global Times on Friday. 

For example, the militaries of China and the US held the first working group meeting under the bilateral maritime military security consultation mechanism in June 2019 in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province. But a second meeting has not yet been reported this year.   

An expert who is familiar with the situation told the Global Times under the condition of anonymity that this year's meeting was postponed due to the pandemic. The two sides do not want to conduct a virtual conference, as matters to be discussed would be sensitive.    

But the US has shown a reluctance to communicate, which is abnormal amid escalating confrontation and sharply declining talks, according to the anonymous expert.

China and the US signed an MOU on the Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters in 2014. 

The anonymous expert said that the two sides continue to abide by those rules to prevent clashes, but the mechanism is close to collapsing due to US military escalation.  

Some experts explained that as rules are not compulsory, it needs both sides' compliance to make them effective. 

The anonymous expert also warned of increasing clashes between Chinese and the US maritime police and militia forces, as military rules do not apply to them. 

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday that it is necessary for China and the US to manage their differences on the South China Sea, and he believes that the US also hopes to reach effective agreements with China on the region.  

"But the most uncertain element is US domestic politics. Some extreme and ambitious politicians and groups have urged the US military to take action to create a crisis to shift domestic attention," Li said. 

China's State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe in August took a phone call from US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

They exchanged views on bilateral ties and military relations, as well as bilateral military communications in the next phase. They agreed to maintain dialogue, improve management and control of maritime risks, and avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation.

Posted in: MILITARY

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