It was reported yesterday that U.S. Defense officials said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has so far been unable to speak with China’s top military leaders, despite multiple attempts to set up talks.
“Humiliating. They returned Trump’s call,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said in a tweet where she shared a Reuters article on the situation.
Humiliating. They returned Trump’s call. https://t.co/7Nh84H4YoL— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 22, 2021
Ingraham wasn’t the only one who was critical of the news as even Wall Street Journal China bureau chief Jonathan Cheng poked fun at the situation.
Cheng lamented, “If anyone has the contact details for China’s top generals, U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin would be much obliged.”
If anyone has the contact details for China's top generals, U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin would be much obliged.https://t.co/kpmKYgTjGl— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) May 22, 2021
Last month, Austin spoke at a leaders summit on climate, which he claimed was an “existential threat” and called for action.
Austin has worked to transform the military to be more “inclusive” and “woke” since being added to President Biden’s cabinet.
On his official Twitter page, the pinned tweet is a tweet encouraging vaccination and a video that he released yesterday calling the vaccinations “safe and effective” while explaining that he got his “shots” already.
Relations between China and the United States have grown increasingly tense, with the world’s two largest economies clashing over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.
Despite the tensions and heated rhetoric, U.S. military officials have long sought to have open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to be able to mitigate potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.
“The military relationship is strained, no question about that. It’s hard to know how much this is reflective of that strain as much as it is just Chinese intransigence,” a U.S. defense official said.
“But we certainly want to have a dialogue. We just want to make sure we have a dialogue at the proper level,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, added.
China’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.
A second U.S. official said there was a debate in President Joe Biden’s administration about whether Austin should speak with vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, Xu Qiliang, or Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
Xu is seen as having more power and influence with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Austin would have had an opportunity to meet with Wei in Singapore later this month during a conference attended by defense ministers from the region, but the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unsuccessful attempts by the Pentagon to reach out to the Chinese were first reported by Financial Times.
Late last year senior Chinese and U.S. defense officials held talks on crisis communication.
While there have not been high level military talks since Biden took office in January, senior diplomats from the two countries met in Alaska in March. Those talks bristled with rancor and yielded no diplomatic breakthroughs.
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