Senior U.S. and Chinese military officials met at the Pentagon this week for discussions focused on U.S.-China defense relations.   

The two-day meeting marked the resumption of the U.S.- People’s Republic of China Defense Policy Coordination Talks last held in September 2021. This was the first time the dialogue has been held in-person since January 2020.  

Michael S. Chase, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, Taiwan and Mongolia, led the U.S. delegation in hosting Chinese army Maj. Gen. Song Yanchao, deputy director of China’s Military Commission Office for International Military Cooperation. The talks are designed, in part, to set the agenda for further exchanges between the U.S. and China for the remainder of the calendar year.  

U.S. defense officials said resuming the talks, which were once held annually, was an important step toward reopening lines of communication between the two sides.   

“Dr. Chase highlighted the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication in order to prevent competition from veering into conflict,” the meeting summary stated. 

The meeting also provided a forum for the two sides to discuss regional and global security issues. 

During the discussion, Chase underscored the importance of maintaining operational safety across the region and “reaffirmed that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows,” according to the meeting summary.  

Chase also underscored the United States’ commitment to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe. 

Defense Department 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.   

President Joe Biden secured China’s agreement to return to military-to-military talks in November following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in San Francisco. 

Last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. held talks with his Chinese military counterpart, Gen. Liu Zhenli, for the first time since Brown became chairman.  

In previewing this week’s talks, a U.S. official welcomed both meetings as signs of progress, but said there is more work to do in reestablishing normal military-to-military communications.  

“The bottom line is that we’re going to keep working to open these lines of communication because they’re important for preventing competition to veering into conflict,” the official said.

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