11 July 2024

PHNOM PENH, Nov 22 (Reuters) – The Chinese and U.S. defence ministers met for their second face-to-face talks this year on Tuesday, a U.S. official said, in a meeting that was not expected to lead to major breakthroughs but could touch on the importance of crisis communication and their opposing views on Taiwan.

While U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe in Singapore in June, this is their first meeting since a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August enraged China, which regards the island as its territory. The meeting is taking place on the sidelines of an ASEAN defence ministers’ gathering in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting between the two started at 10am local time (0300 GMT).

Tuesday’s meeting follows a three-hour meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, aimed at preventing strained ties from spilling into a new Cold War.

Despite tensions between the United States and China, U.S. military officials have long sought to maintain open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to mitigate the risk of potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.

After Austin and Wei’s meeting in June, the Pentagon chief said his talks with his Chinese counterpart were an important step in efforts to develop those means of communication.

Relations between China and the United States have been tense, with friction between the world’s two largest economies over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.

Pelosi’s Taiwan trip in early August infuriated China, which saw it as a U.S. attempt to interfere in its internal affairs. China subsequently launched military drills near the island.

The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.