US Pentagon chief speaks with Chinese counterpart for first time since November 2022

Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of Defense

© APA | Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of Defense

# 16 April 2024 18:32 (UTC +04:00)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with China's national defense minister Tuesday morning, in the latest in a series of U.S. steps to improve communications with the Chinese military and reduce unsafe and aggressive incidents in the Indo-Pacific, APA reports citing ABC News.

It was the first time Austin has talked to Adm. Dong Jun and the first time he has spoken at length with any Chinese counterpart since November 2022. The call, which lasted a bit more than an hour, comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China this month for talks.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said that Austin “emphasized the importance of continuing to open lines of military-to-military communication” between the United States and the People's Republic of China. And he underscored the importance of respect for freedom of navigation on the seas, especially in the South China Sea.

Washington and Beijing have been working to expand communications and ease escalating tensions. Military-to-military contact stalled in August 2022, when Beijing suspended all such communication after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Ryder said that Austin in his conversation with Dong also discussed Russia’s war in Ukraine, concerns about North Korea and the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.