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China says defence chief called for greater ‘trust’ in talks with US

BEIJING (AFP) China said Wednesday its defence minister called for greater “trust” between Beijing and Washington in their defence chiefs’ first substantive talks in nearly 18 months.

“China and the United States should… take peace as the most precious, stability as the most important,” Dong Jun told US counterpart Lloyd Austin, according to a Beijing readout, adding they should “gradually build up mutual trust between the two militaries”.

FILE – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before Senate Committee on Armed Services during a hearing on Department of Defense Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025 and the Future Years Defense Program on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 9, 2024. PHOTO: AP

“The military sphere is the key… to stabilizing the development of the relationship and preventing major crises from occurring,” Dong said.

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are “committed to promoting the stabilization and improvement of bilateral relations”, the defence chief said.

But he also warned the US over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

“Dong Jun emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests,” the defence ministry readout said.

The Chinese military, he warned, “will never sit idly by all ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities” or “external connivance and support” for it.

He also urged the US to respect his country’s position on the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety and where tensions have flared in recent months.

“The US side should recognize China’s firm position, respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and take practical actions to safeguard regional peace,” Dong said.

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