Austin meets China’s Wei in Cambodia

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Austin discussed the importance of substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk, improving crisis communications, and enhancing operational safety….reports Asian Lite News

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has met with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the margins of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Secretary Austin and General Wei discussed U.S.-PRC defence relations and regional and global security issues. Secretary Austin emphasised the need to responsibly manage competition and maintain open lines of communication, the Pentagon said in a press statement.

For Austin and Wei, the face-to-face meeting marks their second this year. They met in Singapore in June, but that was before US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, prompting a furious China to hold large-scale military exercises around the self-ruled democratic island, Nikkei Asia reported.

Austin also discussed the importance of substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk, improving crisis communications, and enhancing operational safety.

Austin also “raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behaviour demonstrated by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident.”

Meanwhile, he affirmed that the US will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows. 

On the subject of Taiwan, which Beijing insists is part of its territory, the Pentagon said Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait” and “underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo”, Nikkei Asia reported.

China’s Defence Ministry, for its part, quoted Wei as saying that the Taiwan issue is one of China’s “core interests” and a “red line” in bilateral relations “that must not be crossed”, it was reported.

On Russia-Ukraine situation, the US defence secretary underscored how Washington and Beijing oppose the use of nuclear weapons or threats to use them.

On tensions with North Korea, Secretary Austin expressed concerns about recent provocations from the Pyongyang and called on China to fully enforce existing UN Security Council resolutions regarding the DPRK’s unlawful weapons programs.   

Tuesday’s roughly 90-minute meeting came about a week after US President Joe Biden met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Indonesia on the sidelines of the Group of 20, their first in-person summit since Biden took over Presidency. The two presidents laid out their red lines on Taiwan to avoid misunderstandings, it was reported.

Echoing Biden, the defence secretary reiterated that the US remains committed to its longstanding one China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, the Pentagon said.

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