US, Chinese Defense Chiefs Meet in Effort to Improve Ties

Mattis to meet Chinese counterpart amid US-China tensions

World 18 Oct 2018 US's Jim Mattis to meet Chinese counterpart amid US-China tensions

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has met with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of an Asian security conference in Singapore.

Mattis "repeated our desire for a durable relationship that is a stabilising force in the overall relationship", Randall Schriver, the Pentagon's assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters after the almost 90-minute meeting on the sidelines of a security summit in Singapore.

Randall Schriver, a US assistant secretary of defence who helps guide Pentagon policy in Asia, said Mattis and Wei largely restated differing views on thorny security disputes but agreed on the need for durable ties.

Pentagon Assistant Secretary for Asia Randall Schriver described the recent meeting as a "reengagement" and "reestablishment" of high-level communications between the two countries.

The pair had been due to meet earlier the month but Beijing cancelled the meeting, apparently in retaliation for Washington sanctioning a unit of China's military for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles in September. -China relations had spread into the military arena.

"I think our message will be: No single country can change worldwide law and national norms", Schriver said.

In a recent reminder of the risks amid rising tensions, the Pentagon this month accused China of an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the South China Sea that brought a Chinese ship dangerously close to a U.S. Navy destroyer in global waters.

Four of the 10 ASEAN countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim sovereignty over some areas of the south China sea, staging area vital to world trade and is known to be rich in hydrocarbons.

"We're two large powers, or two Pacific powers, two economic powers".

Mattis, speaking to reporters as he flew to Asia this week, rejected Chinese claims that the United States was acting aggressively and pointed the finger at Beijing. But U.S. officials say they sense relations with the Chinese military may be stabilizing after a rocky few months. "There's going to be times we step on each other's toes, so we're going to have to find a way to productively manage our relationship", he said.

For several years now, China has been busy building military facilities and deploying various troops in the South China Sea, an action that has caught the ire of the United States.

"Strategically, it signals ASEAN's current and future advances in security cooperation with China will not come at the expense of its good and long-standing ties with the U.S.", Tang said.

Beijing appears ready to normalise its interactions with the American military, a U.S. defence official said Wednesday, after relations soured during a sanctions spat and trade war.

China expressed disappointment to Mattis on Thursday over that decision, Schriver said.

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