As tensions continue to escalate between China and Taiwan, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday (November 22) urged Beijing to avoid actions that could be “destabilizing” toward Taipei.
During his face-to-face meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, Austin emphasised the need for better communication during a crisis.
A statement from US officials after the meeting revealed that Austin also raised concerns about “increasingly dangerous” behaviour by the Chinese military in the Indo-Pacific region.
In the statement, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said that Austin talked about the importance of “substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk and enhancing operational safety.”
The roughly 90-minute long meeting in Cambodia was Austin’s second face-to-face meeting with Wei this year, and it was the first since Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.
Tensions escalated after Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island which Beijing claims as its territory. The visit also jeopardised Sino-US relations as in response, China staged massive military exercises.
China even claimed that, in case needed, it will use force to unite the two territories. And after Pelosi, several other US diplomats also visited the island, flaring up tensions between China and US.
Ryder said: “He (Austin) raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behavior demonstrated by PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident.”
The mention of Chinese aircraft appears to be related to an incident in June when Australia’s defence department said that a Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea region in May.
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