Chinese military officials have told their US counterparts that Beijing will “never compromise” on the issue of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own.
The United States and China wrapped up two days of military talks in Washington, DC on Tuesday, the Pentagon said, the latest round of discussions since the two countries agreed to resume military-to-military ties.
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The two sides are at odds over a range of issues from Taiwan to Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea but agreed to resume talks after a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last November.
China “stressed that it will never compromise or back down on the Taiwan issue”, China’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on the talks on Wednesday, urging the United States to “stop arming” the island, which is holding elections on Saturday.
The US is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to secure territorial control.
The Chinese side also urged the United States to “reduce its military deployment and provocative actions in the South China Sea and stop supporting violations and provocations by individual countries”, the statement continued.
“The United States should fully understand the root causes of maritime and air security issues, strictly rein in its frontline troops, and stop with the exaggeration and hype,” it said.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea under its “nine-dash line“; a marker that an international court ruled in 2016 to be without legal basis.
In defiance of the ruling, Beijing has been expanding its activities in the South China Sea, building artificial islands and deploying its coastguard, fishing fleet and maritime militia to key areas.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam all claim parts of the sea and Manila, in particular, has been involved in a number of confrontations with Chinese vessels at sea.
The rising tension has pushed the country closer to the US.
In its statement on the discussions, the Pentagon said Michael Chase, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, had met China’s Major General Song Yanchao, deputy director of the central military commission office for international military co-operation.
“The two sides discussed U.S.-PRC defense relations, and Chase highlighted the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication in order to prevent competition from veering into conflict,” the statement said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
Chase told the Chinese side the US would “continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows”.
He stressed the “importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation” in light of “repeated PRC harassment against lawfully operating Philippine vessels in the South China Sea”.
Chase also “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait” of Taiwan, the Pentagon added.
US officials have cautioned that even with some restoration of military communications, forging truly functional dialogue between the two sides could take time.