After the dangerous incident involving Chinese and US military aircraft over the South China Sea, the US government has warned of radio silence between the two countries. “When you have this kind of tension, you want to make sure you can talk to each other,” the National Security Council’s communications director, John Kirby, told CNN on Wednesday.
It is important to keep the communication channels open. He called the fact that this is currently not the case worrying. “They’re not open and we need to get them back open,” Kirby said.
US Pacific Command: “Unnecessarily aggressive” intercept
The incident happened on Friday last week. The US Pacific Command accused the pilot of a Chinese fighter jet of an “unnecessarily aggressive” intercept maneuver with a US reconnaissance aircraft. China again accused the US of “provocative and dangerous actions”. Such flights would undermine China’s sovereignty. China claims practically the entire South China Sea for itself. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also claim territories there. The United States and China’s neighbors accuse Beijing of increasing militarization of the region.
Speaking at the White House, Kirby said the Chinese pilot’s actions were “unsafe,” “unprofessional,” and “dangerous.” Incidents like this could lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations. The US government has used its diplomatic channels to express its concerns about the maneuver. However, this is not the same as direct communication between the military of both countries – “especially when the tensions are so high and the risk of misjudgments is also high”.
Relationships at rock bottom
US-China relations have been at rock bottom for some time. China’s backing for Russia’s war in Ukraine, threats against Taiwan and the ongoing trade war are also causing controversy. Given the lack of communication between the two sides, experts warn of unwanted incidents and misunderstandings between the two armed forces that could easily escalate.
Since the scandal surrounding suspected Chinese spy balloons in February and the cancellation of a visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the dialogue has not resumed. China also rejected a US request for a defense ministers meeting. The United States had requested that its chief of department, Lloyd Austin, meet with General Li Shangfu on the sidelines of the Shangri-La security dialogue this weekend in Singapore.
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