The US and Chinese militaries are holding "crisis communications" talks after days of escalating 'war rhetoric' between the two countries.
This latest was held via video conference between the US and PLA sides Wednesday through Thursday of this week, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian confirmed. This also as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo toured Asia seeking to gain support and cooperation from allies on confronting and countering the "China threat" to the region.
Over the course of this month President Xi Jinping has made multiple hugely provocative statements telling PLA forces to "prepare for war" as tensions are ratcheting over Taiwan, particularly after US warship 'freedom of navigation' passages through the Taiwan Strait and Washington's latest approval of advanced weapons transfers.
In particular during this week's military-to-military talks, intended as establishing a means of emergency communications, or military hotline, to avoid 'accidental' confrontation, dealt with rumors of a coming US drone attack on islands in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing, which the PLA side raised. It was said that a US military drill off California was meant to simulate just such an attack.
The exercise raised eyebrows in Chinese regional media given widespread reports that American drone operators wore patches on their uniforms suggesting China and its claimed islands were the direct targets.
Esper is said to have expressly denied that there are any plans in place to attack Chinese islands in the region, also to assure Chinese military delegation participating in the communications talks.
Does this US military uniform suggest it is preparing for war with China? https://t.co/kAPUwXtO93— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) September 29, 2020
According to PLA spokesman Wu, Esper underscored that the United States "has no intention of creating a military crisis with the Chinese," according to Reuters.
"US Defense Secretary Esper clarified the issue through the military diplomacy channel and said the reports were inconsistent with the facts," Wu added. "We urge the U.S. to walk the talk, keep its promise, and take measures to prevent provoking China military in the air and sea."
The Pentagon also confirmed that "The two sides agreed on the importance of establishing mechanisms for timely communication during a crisis, as well as the need to maintain regular communication channels to prevent crisis and conduct post-crisis assessment" in a statement.
It's long been feared that each superpower is 'stumbling toward war' in the region given the potential for an unintended confrontation or clash to rapidly grow into a broader conflagration. The military-to-military talks are designed precisely to prevent such a dramatic scenario.