The nation’s top military officer held a call with his Chinese counterpart Thursday morning, marking the highest level of military communication since July 2022, prior to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan — and the Chinese spy balloon’s drift across the U.S. before a fighter jet shot it down off the South Carolina coast, angering Beijing.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown held a video with his counterpart Gen. Liu Zhenli, according to a readout from the joint staff.
Senior U.S. officials who previewed the call for reporters said the call is a result of the commitment by President Biden and Chinese President Xi in November to resume this type of communication. The officials didn’t have any more calls to preview but are working with Chinese counterparts to set up different calls at various levels.
One of the officials said it’s important to resume communication so that “competition does not spiral into conflict.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has not spoken to his current counterpart, although he also doesn’t have one yet. China has not named a new minister of national defense since Xi removed Gen. Li Shangfu from the post.
The lack of military-to-military communication between the two countries became a concern during the Chinese spy balloon incident, when Austin’s counterpart at the time wouldn’t pick up the phone after the shoot-down.
Earlier this year, as a way to emphasize the need for communication, the Pentagon released some videos from nearly 200 risky and coercive maneuvers Chinese planes had performed against U.S. jets in the past two years.
Since the Biden-Xi meeting, there have been no incidents involving the buzzing of U.S. planes by Chinese aircraft.