The top U.S. general spoke to his Chinese counterpart Thursday morning, ending roughly 16 months of broken military-to-military engagement at the highest levels, the Pentagon announced.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. C. Q. Brown, Jr., and his counterpart in Beijing, Gen. Liu Zhenli, talked by videoconference over a variety of “global and regional security issues,” the Joint Chiefs office said in a statement. The conversation could signal a renewal of open lines of communication, something the Biden administration worked for months to restore and sees as critical to avoiding accidents or miscalculation with the only great power competitor to the U.S.
“Gen. Brown discussed the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication” and “reiterated the importance of the People’s Liberation Army engaging in substantive dialogue to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings,” the statement read.
The Pentagon has warned about the dangers of a prolonged disruption in military-to-military communication, including increasing the chance of accidental escalation during one of Beijing’s many aggressive air interceptions of U.S. aircraft or threats to Taiwan and U.S. allies in the region.
President Joe Biden said he reached an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to restore military communications after a November meeting of an economic group that took place in San Francisco.
The news follows several unsuccessful attempts to bring back military-to-military communication.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had failed to work out an agreement with the Chinese foreign minister in June, one of his primary objectives during the trip to Beijing. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reportedly refused an invitation to attend a Beijing defense summit in October after, in late May, China’s former defense minister Li Shangfu shunned an offer to engage with him. Another Pentagon representative attended the summit.
Xi promotes four generals: Wang Xiubin (Commander of the PLA Southern Theater Command); Xu Qiling (Commander of the PLA Western Theater Command); Liu Zhenli (Commander of the PLA Army); and Ju Qiansheng (Commander of the PLA Strategic Support Force). https://t.co/37cV8By1xnpic.twitter.com/QEKsz904w9
— Lyle Morris (@LyleJMorris) July 5, 2021
“The Chairman regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world and remains open to constructive dialogue with the PRC,” the statement read.
Brown also highlighted the need to hold talks through existing channels Beijing had spurned, most of them since former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August of 2022. Those include the bilateral Defense Policy Coordination Talks, the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement talks and regular engagement between the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and military heads of the Chinese army’s Eastern and Southern Theater Commands.
Limited signs of contact emerged earlier this year as Adm. John Aquilino, the INDOPACOM commander, met with unnamed Chinese military officials at a conference in Fiji, the Pentagon confirmed, according to Reuters.
Micaela Burrow on December 21, 2023