US will seek to restore military contacts with China – White House

Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell says direct military communication channels with Beijing are crucial to prevent future incidents

US will seek to restore military contacts with China – White House

US will seek to restore military contacts with China – White House

Such channels were described as crucial as the two countries’ forces increasingly “rub up against one another”

The US will continue to diplomatically insist on the restoration of direct communication channels with China in order to prevent future incidents or accidents, according to Kurt Campbell, who serves as the coordinator for the Indian and Pacific regions on the White House National Security Council (NSC).

Discussing the strategic and military implications of the AUKUS military alliance between Australia, the US and UK at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Monday, Campbell said it was crucial for China and the US to take “practical steps that would enable effective communication to deal with an unintended set of circumstances or an accident or a mishap.”

“We will continue to articulate the rationale for why these [channels] are important, particularly as our forces increasingly rub up against one another and operate in closer proximity,” he said.

Campbell noted that “the Chinese have been reluctant historically to undertake these efforts” but stressed that Washington would nevertheless make the case that such contacts are necessary.

Campbell added that the personal visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China last week, where he met with President Xi Jinping, was a “good step” for diplomacy.

Asked whether the US was considering lifting sanctions on Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in order to help establish military contacts, Campbell said the reason that Beijing doesn’t want to reestablish communication channels extends “beyond simple restrictions placed on senior officers.”

Blinken became the first US secretary of state to visit Beijing in five years as relations between the two countries had soured over a number of issues such as the legal status of Taiwan as well as Washington’s increased military activity in the Indo-Pacific.

During his meeting with Xi, Blinken emphasized that Washington was not seeking conflict or a new Cold War with China, had no plans to encourage regime change in the country, and expected to maintain high-level engagement with Beijing. 

Shortly after their meeting, however, US President Joe Biden unexpectedly branded Xi a “dictator,” causing outrage in Beijing and once again placing increased strain on relations.