US defence chief speaks for first time with Chinese counterpart | Russia-Ukraine war News

The call comes amid continued US concerns that China could assist Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Chinese counterpart for the first time, General Wei Fenge, as Washington remained concerned that Beijing might provide military support to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday’s exchange between Austin and Wei was “a follow-up” to a call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in March in which the leader The US warned that there would be “costs” if China supported Russia militarily.

The White House did not say it had received assurances from Beijing about military assistance to Russia.

“Minister Austin and General Wei discussed the United States-PRC [People’s Republic of China] defense relations, regional security issues and Russia’s gratuitous invasion of Ukraine,” Kirby said.

Despite its economic ties to both Ukraine and Russia, Chinese state media has ramped up Russian propaganda at several points throughout the conflict.

During their meeting before the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Chinese leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the friendship between the two countries “has no limits”.

However, in a statement after Biden and Xi’s call in March, Beijing said it “doesn’t want to see” an escalation of the war in Ukraine and that “China has always supported peace and opposed war”.

Wednesday’s call with Wei came after Austin had searched for months, but to no avail, to speak to General Xu Qiliang, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the Chinese Communist Party’s military structure. Country. While Xu is more influential in China, technically, Wei is Austin’s partner.

A senior defense official told the Associated Press that Austin echoed Biden’s message about the importance of managing US-China strategic competition, including in the nuclear, space and space sectors. as well as improving crisis communications among global powers.

Austin also raised US concerns about what Washington sees as China’s military provocations towards Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as a breakaway province, and he expressed his concerns. United States on China’s activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

The Austin-Wei meeting also came after China announced it had signed a security treaty with the Solomon Islands, raising concerns Beijing might try to set up a military base on the South Pacific island nation. .

American officials are scheduled to visit the Solomon Islands this week.

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