PHNOM PENH — US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday emphasized the need to improve crisis communications during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart while raising concern about “increasingly dangerous” behavior by Chinese military aircraft.
The roughly 90-minute meeting in Cambodia, described as “productive and professional” by a US official, was the pair’s first since a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August enraged China, which regards the island as its territory.
In his second face-to-face meeting with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe this year, Mr. Austin discussed the importance of “substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk and enhancing operational safety,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement after the meeting.
“He (Austin) raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behavior demonstrated by PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident,” Mr. Ryder said.
In June, a Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea region in May, Australia’s defense department said.
Australia has said that the Chinese jet flew very close in front of the RAAF aircraft and released a “bundle of chaff” containing small pieces of aluminum that were ingested into the Australian aircraft’s engine. Tuesday’s meeting of the defense ministers took place on the sidelines of an ASEAN gathering in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
After Ms. Pelosi’s visit, China announced it was halting dialogue with the United States in a number of areas, including between theater-level military commanders.
A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Austin and Mr. Wei had a “lengthy” discussion about Taiwan and also talked about restarting in the coming months some of the mechanisms that had been canceled after Ms. Pelosi’s visit.
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