US, China resume talks on safe military interactions

The United States and China held talks this week on safety in interactions between their armed forces for the first time in more than two years, the US military said on Friday.

The resumption of the talks came after US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed at a summit in November to restore military-to-military communications and ease tensions between the two countries.

US and Chinese military representatives met for the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement Working Group in Hawaii on Wednesday and Thursday -- the first such meetings since a virtual event in late 2021, the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said in a statement.

The agreement is INDOPACOM's "primary means to directly discuss air and maritime operational safety" with China's military, US Army Colonel Ian Francis, the head of the American delegation, said in the statement.

"Open, direct, and clear communications with the PLA -- and with all other military forces in the region -- is of utmost importance to avoid accidents and miscommunication," Francis said, using an abbreviation for the People's Liberation Army -- China's military.

INDOPACOM said that during the meetings this week -- the latest in a series that dates back to 1998 -- US and Chinese officials "reviewed safety-related events over the last few years, and discussed sustaining maritime and aviation operational safety and professionalism."

The United States has repeatedly highlighted incidents in recent years in which it says Chinese warplanes and ships have operated in an unsafe manner around American and allied aircraft and vessels.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned prior to Biden and Xi agreeing to resume military-to-military talks that accidents have the potential to spiral out of control, especially in the absence of open lines of communication between American and Chinese forces.

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