US, Chinese Generals Break 16-Month Silence

By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2023 4:25 PM CST
US, Chinese Generals Break 16-Month Silence
In a photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, the Taiwanese navy ship Keelung, foreground, a US-made Kidd Class destroyer, monitors the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, background, near Taiwanese waters in September 2023.   (Taiwan Ministry of National Defense via AP, File)

US and Chinese military leaders have ended their 16-month estrangement, speaking in a videoconference about global security issues. When they met last month in California, President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had agreed to have their top generals resume communication. So Air Force Gen. CQ Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Liu Zhenli of the People's Liberation Army's Joint Staff Department, spoke Thursday morning, the Wall Street Journal reports. Chinese defense officials said the principal topics were Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China cut off the communication after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022. The US readout said the generals discussed "the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication." In the past two years, per Politico, China and the US have been harshly critical of the other over Pelosi's trip, US arms sales to Taiwan, Chinese intercepts of Western aircraft in the South China Sea, and the American downing of a Chinese spy balloon off the East Coast in February.

Both political leaders expressed hope that regular talks between their militaries would reduce the chances of a blowup. That could be tested in the near future, per the Journal, with the two nations already at odds over the Israel-Hamas war and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also, US and Chinese forces often are deployed in close quarters near Taiwan and in the South China Sea. Both nations have been concerned about a mistake sparking a broad confrontation. (More US-China relations stories.)

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