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Military exchanges conducive to risk reduction: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-07 19:26

According to a Chinese Defense Ministry readout on Saturday, a China-US Military Maritime Consultative Agreement Working Group meeting was held in Hawaii from Wednesday to Thursday with the aim of promoting the healthy, stable and sustainable development of military ties between the two nations.

The latest maritime consultation between the Chinese and the United States' militaries shows that the two countries are taking concrete steps to implement the two heads of state's agreement on the importance of military-to-military exchanges being resumed.

Given that the previous such meeting took place in December 2021 via a video link, the first offline MMCA meeting in two years, reportedly with the participation of senior representatives of the military and civilian officials from each side, is a long-called-for revival of direct China-US military exchanges.

With the strains that have appeared in the two countries' relations in that intervening period there is much air to be cleared to ensure the two sides are on the same page and there is no misreading of the tense situation.

While military-to-military communication was maintained through diplomatic channels, the suspension of the maritime mechanism by Beijing — as part of its series of measures in response to then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's brazenly provocative visit to Taipei in August 2022 — raised fears of the two militaries inadvertently stumbling into conflict. The agreement on the resumption of the mechanism, announced after the summit between the two heads of state in San Francisco in November last year, was therefore widely welcomed as a much-needed step in the right direction.

Keeping the channels of direct communication open is vital at a time when the US' strategy to contain China is bloating the US' military footprint in the region and it is increasing the frequency of its nearshore operations, heightening the risks of an incident.

That the mechanism is operational once again has led to hopes that the US will strive to temper the overaggressive pursuit of its adversarial approach to "competition". China made it clear at last week's consultation that its military will continue to lawfully respond to any and all provocations.

In a latest example of the provocations that the US is now routinely engaging in, it held joint maritime exercises in the South China Sea on Sunday with the Philippines, Australia and Japan. In a joint statement, the four countries said the exercises, the first of their kind, were "to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight" in the South China Sea, the spurious excuse the US gives for the constant parading of its muscles on China's doorstep.

The US clearly wants to send the message that it will throw its weight behind the Philippines' increasing reckless testing of China's patience.

While the resumption of the dialogue mechanism is to be welcomed, the US should appreciate that the best way for it to avoid triggering an explosive situation is for it not to play with explosives. It should stop creating risk-laden situations with its military posturing and make efforts to reduce the risks by behaving more responsibly and maturely.

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