Defense officials are encouraged by the prospect of the U.S. resuming communications directly with China’s military, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.
Austin’s comments come one day after President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restore a military-to-military communication agreement.
“The president is determined to see the reestablishment of military-to-military ties because he believes it’s in the U.S. national security interest,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this week in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation. “We need those lines of communication so that there aren’t mistakes or miscalculations or miscommunication.”
Last month, a Pentagon report to Congress documented a rise in Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pilots intercepting U.S. military aircraft in international airspace as part of a pressure campaign against lawful flight operations in the region. In the past two years, U.S. military pilots have reported nearly 200 incidents of PLA pilot harassment.
“I won’t make any predictions about China’s future behavior,” Austin told reporters Thursday while in Jakarta, Indonesia. “What I will say is that we will continue to need the mechanism to manage crises and make sure we prevent things from spiraling out of control from time to time. That’s even more important if activities in the region have increased—if unhelpful things like close intercepts…have increased. All the more reason that senior leaders need to be able to talk to each other.”
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