It has been announced that the United States and China have re-engaged each other in military talks, specifically concerning the eminent North Korean nuclear threat and recent difficulties the two nations have encountered in the waters. This dialogue took place over the course of two days. The talks are being led by Michele Flournoy, the U.S Defence Undersecretary, and Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian, the deputy chief of staff of China’s army. Such a dialogue is an encouraging sign of better relations between the two nations as their military talks were stalled for a year and a half. The interruption was caused by China’s anger over American arms trade with Taiwan, an island which they consider to be Chinese territory despite Taiwanese resistance. The $6.5 billion dollar arms trade deal was a source of tension between the two countries.
In recent history, China and the U.S have been faced with naval confrontations. Indeed, earlier this month, an American sonar device which was being carried by a United State naval ship was harmed when it collided with a Chinese submarine. The Chinese officials maintain that the collision was an accident.
This incident has been one of many. American surveillance ships have met hostility from Chinese fishing vessels when the Americans conduct coastal patrols. The conflict arises from the different interpretations of international law as read by the Americans and the Chinese. While the Chinese do not believe that American intelligence-gathering excursions are allowed in the South China Sea, the Americans are of a contrasting view. The Chinese are now determined to emphasize what they believe is their coastal jurisdiction.
During the course of the meetings, the China, North Korea’s biggest ally, reassured the American officials of their commitment to the sanctions authorised by the United Nations in retaliation to North Korean nuclear testing. China, did not however, promise to tolerate searches on the North Korean vessel heading to Myanmar which has drawn American attention.
Although the talks did not end with any conclusive agreements, the contact between the superpowers has encouraged the arrangement of future dialogues. Indeed, Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian was quoted as saying that “Our two sides agreed to work together to avoid such incidents from happening again, since such incidents will surely have a negative impact on our bilateral relations in general”