Calls from Pentagon chiefs to China go unanswered amid Taiwan crisis

US military leaders strive to keep lines of communication open even with potential adversaries like China to avoid accidents and other miscalculations that could escalate into full-scale conflict.

But the last call Milley had with his Chinese counterpart, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Li Zuocheng, was on July 7, the Pentagon said. The two spoke via secure video conference about the need to keep lines of communication open as well as reduce risk, according to a readout from Milley’s office. Austin, meanwhile, met in person with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe in June on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

“The secretary has repeatedly emphasized the importance of fully open lines of communication with China’s defense leaders to ensure that we can avoid any miscalculations, and that remains true,” Acting Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said. from the Pentagon, to POLITICO in an email.

China announced on Friday that it did stop certain official dialogues between high-level US military commanders, including regional commanders, as well as talks on maritime security. The announcement does not specifically apply to Austin and Milley’s counterparts, and officials said they are still open to communication between those leaders.

White House spokesman John Kirby said that while the announcement “doesn’t completely eliminate speaking opportunities for senior members of our military,” it does increase the risk of an accident.

“These lines of communication are really important to help you reduce the risk of miscalculations and misperceptions,” Kirby said Friday. “You have so much military hardware operating in small areas, it’s good, especially now, to have those lines of communication open.”

China is conducting military drills around Taiwan that have broken multiple precedents and fundamentally changed the status quo in the region. Beijing has this week fired missiles into Taiwan territory, including at least one that appears to have flown over the island, and launched ships and planes across the median line that separates Taiwan’s territorial waters from mainland China.

The United States, which does not officially recognize Taiwan’s independence but sells arms to the island, wants to avoid a situation like the one on April 1, 2001, when a Navy EP-3 intelligence aircraft of the United States collided in the middle of a Chinese J-8 fighter. -air, causing an international dispute.

The risk of an incident like this is getting higher and higher. Recently, China has increased aggressive activity in the Pacific, particularly in the East and South China Seas, alarming US officials. Chinese planes and ships have harassed and harassed US and allied pilots, even conducting an “unsafe” interception of a US C-130 special operations aircraft in June.

However, canceling the military dialogue is significant, but not unprecedented, experts said.

“Historically, that’s definitely part of the playbook,” Schriver said. “Thousand thousand [communications] He’s historically ready when we have problems with China.”

But Kirby condemned the move as “irresponsible” at a time of escalating tensions.

“We find that shutting down military communications channels at any level and scope and in a time of crisis is irresponsible legislation,” Kirby said.

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