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Biden admin pushing for military hotline with China, report says

U.S. and China flags (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
June 10, 2021

The Biden administration is pushing to establish a defense hotline with China in an effort to avoid accidental escalation with the Communist nation in the Asia-Pacific region, a senior defense official speaking on a condition of anonymity told Foreign Policy in May.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had reportedly anticipated discussing the U.S.-China hotline during the June Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual defense summit held in Singapore. This year’s summit was canceled over COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, Reuters reported. Austin had reportedly planned to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe at the summit to discuss crisis communications and risk reduction in areas like South China Sea.

The proposed hotline is meant to open several layers of communication with Beijing to facilitate cooperation between the two nations and avoid potential conflict, particularly amid the Chinese navy’s expansion into the Indo-Pacific.

Biden’s Defense Department is keeping expectations low, however, because the Chinese have been reluctant to pursue crisis management with the United States in the past.

“The challenge is, in large part, that the Chinese have never been particularly receptive to doing things the way that the U.S. likes to do them,” the senior defense official said.

According to another defense official also speaking anonymously, U.S. and Chinese officials last discussed safety improvements between the two powers’ naval and air forces two years ago, but China opted out of the final round of talks.

The desire for improved communication with China comes as the nation continues to ramp up pressure on U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

This week, the Chinese military began new beach landing drills near the island nation of Taiwan just two days after a U.S. military transport plane landed in Taipei, carrying visiting U.S. Senators and delivering vaccines.

The South China Morning Post reported the official WeChat account for the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced on Tuesday that the 72nd Group Army had carried out training, including launching amphibious vehicles to land in unspecified waters south of Fujian Province, which sits across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan.

Earlier this month, Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s state-run Global Times, called for China to increase its nuclear arsenal in anticipation of “a high-intensity showdown between the US and China.”

“Given the intensifying US strategic containment of China, I would like to remind once again that we have many urgent tasks, but one of the most important is to keep rapidly increasing the number of nuclear warheads and strategic missiles like the Dongfeng 41 with extremely long-range and high survival capabilities,” Hu wrote in a post translated by Chinese human rights activist Jennifer Zeng and communicated to the Daily Telegraph. “This is the cornerstone of China’s strategic resilience against the United States.”