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U.S., Chinese Military Reps Meet for Two Days of Talks at the Pentagon

U.S. and Chinese military officials met at the Pentagon over Jan. 8-9 for the 17th U.S.-P.R.C. Defense Policy Coordination talks. The U.S. side was led by Dr. Michael Chase, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, Taiwan, while the Chinese delegation was led by Maj. Gen. Song Yanchao, Deputy Director of the Central Military Commission Office for International Military Cooperation. This is supposed to be an annual meeting, but the Chinese side canceled it last year in the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s 2022 visit to Taiwan. The fact of the meeting, which stems from an agreement to resume military-to-military talks reached by President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they met in San Francisco on Nov. 15. 2023, might be considered a breakthrough, but judging from the readouts from the two sides, it appears that there was little to no actual dialogue.

The Pentagon readout suggests that Dr. Chase lectured the Chinese side on a number of matters including on the importance of military-to-military communication and stressed that the U.S. military “will continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows; and underscored that the U.S. commitment to our allies in the Indo-Pacific and globally remains ironclad.” Chase also “underscored the importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation guaranteed under international law in light of repeated P.R.C. harassment against lawfully operating Philippine vessels in the South China Sea,” the readout continues. “He also discussed Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine and expressed concerns about recent provocations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Chase also claimed that the U.S. remained committed to the one China policy with respect to Taiwan.

The Chinese readout was equally strident. It reported that China is willing to develop sound U.S.-China military relations but that “the U.S. side needs to take seriously China’s concerns and do more things that contribute to the growth of the mil-mil relationship.” The Chinese side also made clear in no uncertain terms that “China will not make any concession or compromise on the Taiwan question and demanded that the U.S. side abide by the one-China principle, honor relevant commitments, stop arming Taiwan, and not support Taiwan independence.” The readout also called on the U.S. to stop provocations in the South China Sea and respect China’s core interests.