China, US militaries in crunch talks to avoid conflicts in Taiwan and South China Sea

China, US militaries in crunch talks to avoid conflicts in Taiwan and South China Sea

  • US Defence Secretary Mark Esper expresses concern over ‘destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan and the South China Sea’, says Pentagon spokesman
  • Esper also called on Beijing to share more of its data on Covid-19, adds the spokesman

China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his US counterpart Mark Esper warned each other in a phone call about escalating risks over Taiwan and the South China Sea, in the highest-level US-China talks since state leader Yang Jiechi met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii in mid-June.

Esper “expressed concerns about [the Chinese military’s] destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan and the South China Sea, and called on [China] to honour international obligations” as well as share more of its data on Covid-19, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

“There are obligations that the Chinese government is under responsibility for with regard to the [World Health Organisation] agreements, so they have a need to provide samples to provide data,” Hoffman said. “That didn’t happen and we expect them to to continue to improve their information sharing in regard of that.”

The US defence secretary also “affirmed the principles and importance of constructive, stable and result-oriented defence relationship between the United States” and the People’s Liberation Army, Hoffman said, adding that the call lasted about 90 minutes.

The conversation took place amid growing concerns about the possibility of a hot war between the two powers – especially over the South China Sea. The US sent 67 large reconnaissance planes to the contested region in July, a sharp increase on the previous two months, according to the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative.