Chinese military officials met US and Russian naval officials this week

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 4:58 AM

By Laurie Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) – Senior Chinese military officials held separate meetings with U.S. and Russian naval counterparts during a Western Pacific naval symposium in Qingdao this week, a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Wu Qian told a media briefing in Beijing that China’s naval commander Admiral Hu Zhongming and political commissar Yuan Huazhi had a “deep exchange of views” with U.S. Pacific Fleet chief Admiral Stephen Koehler and Russia’s naval commander Admiral Alexander Moiseyev.

“The PLA navy is willing to work with all countries to further strengthen communication, enhance trust and play a positive and constructive role in building a maritime community with a shared future,” Wu said.

The confirmation of the Hu-Koehler meeting was the latest sign that liaisons between the Chinese and U.S. militaries is returning to normal following a communications breakdown after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

Wu gave no more details of Hu’s meeting with Koehler.

Hu and Yuan also met naval counterparts from France, Chile and Cambodia as part of a symposium that also included Japanese, Indian, British and Australian officials amid heightened regional tensions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun by phone last week in the first such engagement in more than a year.

Working-level officials from both sides met in Hawaii earlier in the month, focusing on how the two militaries can operate safely amid heightened tensions over Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea.

Wu said on Thursday that the Austin-Dong phone call “bears positive significance in maintaining the overall stability of bilateral military ties”.

As military deployments increase across East Asia, U.S. military officials have sought to maintain open lines of communication with Chinese counterparts to boost understanding and ease the risks of accidents spiralling out of control.

More broadly, Wu reiterated Chinese concerns over U.S. strategic diplomacy across the region, particularly recent discussions about Japan joining the AUKUS defence grouping of Britain, Australia and the United States.

“For some time now, the U.S. and Japan have tightened military collaboration, hyped up bloc confrontation, and formed small cliques targeting others using the groundless ‘China threat’ as an excuse,” Wu said.

“This will only let the international community see clearly the nature of the U.S.-Japan alliance and their plot to undermine regional peace and stability.”

(Reporting By Laurie Chan in Beijing; writing by Greg Torode in Hong Kong; editing by Jacqueline Wong, Mark Heinrich and Miral Fahmy)