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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has held a meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Admiral Dong Jun, marking the first top-level military communication between the US and China in nearly two years.

As revealed in a Pentagon readout, the two officials discussed a range of critical issues during a video teleconference, including US-China defense relations, activities in the South China Sea, policies on Taiwan, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and recent provocations from North Korea.


Ahead of the dialogue, a senior defense official told a group of reporters, “We think having these open lines of communication is important to avoid any kind of misperception, misunderstanding, miscalculation, anything that would cause competition to spiral into conflict.”

This conversation is the first between Austin and Admiral Dong, who became China’s top military leader in December following his predecessor’s unexplained removal. This also marks Austin’s first substantial interaction with a Chinese military leader since November 2022. Although Austin had briefly met the former Minister of Defense, Li Shangfu, in June at a defense forum in Singapore, their interaction was limited to a handshake after China declined a formal meeting request.

The recent re-engagement is part of a broader thaw in diplomatic relations following a meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco five months ago, and a subsequent phone call earlier this month. Previously, China had cut off most military communication with the US following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022, which had significantly strained relations.

Additionally, US and Chinese military officials met earlier this month in Waikiki, Hawaii, to discuss the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA), which aims to reduce potential air and sea conflicts.


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