Beijing (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday pressed its call for military communication channels with China and signalled concern over reports that China plans a military training facility in Cuba following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing over the weekend.
Establishing military-to-military communications is essential to reduce frictions between the two global powers, Sarah Beran, White House National Security Council senior director for China and Taiwan Affairs, told reporters in a briefing about the trip.
“This is an absolutely critical way for us to manage competition, crisis communication, ensure that there is not miscommunication or misperception about each other’s intentions,” Beran said.
“We remain willing and able at all levels to meet and call on China to respond appropriately to that.”
Blinken said on Tuesday that the United States would have “deep concerns” about Chinese military activities in Cuba, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Beijing was planning a new training facility there.
Blinken told a press conference in London that he had made those concerns clear to his Chinese counterparts.
“This is something we’re going to be monitoring very, very closely and we’ve been very clear about that. And we will protect our homeland, we will protect our interests,” Blinken added.
During Blinken’s Beijing visit, the first to China by a U.S. secretary of state since 2018, the nations agreed to temper rivalries to avoid conflict but there were no breakthroughs.
China cited U.S. sanctions as an obstacle to military dialogue which Blinken said he had repeatedly raised with his hosts and would continue to push for.
Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has been sanctioned since 2018 over the purchase of combat aircraft and equipment from Russia’s main arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.
Lack of open channels between both nations has prompted international jitters, with Beijing’s reluctance to engage in regular military-to-military talks with Washington alarming China’s neighbours.
Speaking at the same briefing call on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink said a successful and responsible management of the U.S.-China relationship will only be possible if it is a “two-way street”.
Kritenbrink said asserting that all bilateral problems were caused by one party “simply doesn’t reflect reality.”
At one of the most significant U.S.-China exchanges since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, the two sides appeared entrenched over a multitude of issues from Taiwan to trade – including U.S. actions toward China’s chip industry – plus human rights and Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The most concrete result of the trip was a commitment to more diplomatic engagements with further high-level U.S. visits in coming months, including possible trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
China’s defence minister Li earlier this month declined an invitation to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at an international security summit.