Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. held talks today with his Chinese military counterpart, People’s Liberation Army Gen. Liu Zhenli, for the first time since Brown became chairman.
The two leaders discussed a range of global and regional security issues as Brown reaffirmed the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communications, according to a summary of the video teleconference.
“Gen. Brown discussed the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication,” the summary reads. “Gen. Brown reiterated the importance of the People’s Liberation Army engaging in substantive dialogue to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.”
The last talks between U.S. and Chinese counterparts at this level occurred in July 2022.
Defense officials have repeatedly raised concerns over China’s lack of communication with U.S. military leaders, noting that Beijing has consistently denied or ignored U.S. requests for defense engagements at multiple levels.
Those concerns have been amplified as U.S. officials observe increasingly provocative and risky behavior on the part of China’s military.
Defense officials have noted a steep rise in China’s risky and aggressive intercepts of U.S. aircraft operating in international airspace in accordance with international law.
According to the most recent China Military Power Report, the U.S. has documented more than 180 coercive and risky air intercepts against U.S. aircraft in the region between 2021 and 2023.
That is more risky intercepts in the past two years than in the past decade, according to the report.
President Joe Biden secured China’s agreement to return to military-to-military talks last month following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco.
The two presidents also discussed resuming bilateral efforts to combat global illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking, including fentanyl. They also discussed the need to address the risks of advanced artificial intelligence systems and improve artificial intelligence safety.
In previewing Thursday’s call, senior defense officials said the initial talks between Brown and his counterpart are an “important step” but added that there is still more work to do to ensure open and reliable lines of communications between U.S. and Chinese military leaders.
“These are the kinds of discussions that we need to have to try to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation,” one official said. “Having those open channels of communication, obviously, is a key part of that.”