China, US hold military talks for crisis communication; ‘October Surprise’ a rumor: Chinese MOD

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/30 0:13:40 Last Updated: 2020/10/30 0:43:51

Mark Esper Photo: Xinhua

 With the situation in the West Pacific remaining tense due to the increasing US military provocations against China in recent months, the Chinese Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the US Department of Defense has communicated with China and will make more communication and cooperation to ease tensions and avoid conflict.

Chinese experts said that although some senior officials in the Trump administration are making more and more provocations to endanger bilateral ties as well as the regional security in the West Pacific, leaders of the US Defense Department remained cautious and reasonable, because they know how terrifying it could be if China and the US become involved in a military conflict.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said on Thursday's monthly press conference that the militaries of China and the US were currently holding a virtual meeting for crisis communication, and more exchanges and consultations on issues including maritime military security will be held by the year's end. 

Experts believe the announcement aims to cool down military tensions with solid facts. Although some officials in the Trump administration want to create an "October surprise" by using US-China tensions, they are unlikely to risk a war with China, so military provocations by the US might be reduced.

Previously, some observers said that the current China-US crisis management and regular consultation mechanism had been suspended, and that if frontline soldiers from the two sides meet at sea, the failure of either party to comply with the existing rules could lead to disaster.

However, in light of the statement published by the defense ministry, experts believe the mechanism is still operating normally. 

The US has no intention to create a military crisis with China, and is willing to establish stable, constructive and results-oriented military ties with China, and cooperate with China to reduce risks and improve communication, said US Defense Secretary Mark Esper when in communication with the Chinese Defense Ministry to explain that the US doesn't has plan to send drones attack China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea, Wu said at the press conference.

China-US military communication is extremely important under the current situation. We hope the US matches its words with its deeds, keeps its promise, and stops military provocations in waters and airspaces around China. China will strike back if anyone dares to wage conflict, Wu said at the Thursday press conference.

A Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday that the information published by the Chinese defense authorities proved that current China-US military relations remain relatively normal. In addition, it could help cool down the military tensions between China and the US; that is, it is not the case as the outside world believes that China and the US are in a situation where war is on the verge of breaking out.

The expert also said that whether Trump or Biden wins, China-US relations will embrace a new opportunity. This is not only the will of China but also of the US. Although the two sides are currently facing a deadlock, there is still some room for future exchanges and interactions.

Wu said senior officers from the Office for International Military Cooperation of China's Central Military Commission and US Department of Defense spoke on the hone on October 20.

The two militaries were holding a virtual meeting for crisis communication on Wednesday and Thursday and both sides agreed to conduct a 2020 military personnel humanitarian relief and disaster reduction seminar and exchanges by video conference in mid-November, Wu said. 

In addition, before the end of the year, the two militaries will hold a video conference on maritime military security consultations, according to Wu.  

Esper's explanation

In response to recent US media reports that said the US is mulling a plan to use MQ-9 military drones to attack islands and reefs in the South China Sea to create a so-called "October Surprise" to help President Donald Trump win reelection, Wu said US Secretary of Defense Esper specifically clarified this issue through military and diplomatic channels, stating that the relevant reports do not match with the facts and that the US has no intention of creating a military crisis against China. 

Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday that Esper and many other senior officials of the US Department of Defense are wiser and more reasonable than what has been reported, as they know that any escalation of a military crisis with China at this moment, a few days ahead of the US presidential election and a possible transition of power in the US, would be uncontrollable.

"Normally, the US secretary of defense would not respond to such groundless rumors, but Esper has specifically sought out communication with China to clarify the rumors, showing that the US really doesn't want any accidents or miscalculations," he said.

The US is not prepared to and dares not to make such a crazy move. "If the US attacks islands and reefs in the South China Sea, it will be at a huge cost, which the US has not prepared for now," said Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, noting that it is both unlikely and unwise for the US to stir up military clashes.

"When the US attacked Iraq, it had formulated an aircraft carrier battle group. But right now, it has only deployed two battle groups near China, which shows that the country has not yet prepared itself. If the US was to truly launch attacks against the islands and reefs in the South China Sea with drones, it wouldn't succeed as the firing range is very short and could not reach the targets," Song said.

He noted that China has deployed defensive weapons in the waters which could easily destroy MQ-9 drones.

Lü said the US will normalize its military presence in some regions like waters around the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea, but it will be more restrained and careful.

From August to October, the military presence of US military aircrafts and vessels in relevant regions has seen a decline, but experts warned that after the typhoon season, the frequent military presence of US forces might return.

Newspaper headline: China, US hold military talks; ‘October Surprise’ a rumor: MOD

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