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US military complains of being snubbed by China over persisting bans

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speak during a news conference at the Pentagon. (Photo by AFP)

The US military has expressed frustration for being repeatedly snubbed by Chinese officials in their efforts to make official contact amid Beijing’s vow of halting dialogue with Washington over recent sanctions.

US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner complained on Thursday that Pentagon’s attempts to reach out to China’s military in recent months have been either rejected or ignored.

Ratner made the remarks during an event hosted by Washington-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noting that Beijing is not responding to America’s requests for contact between the nations’ military officials.

He then claimed that the US Defense Department is keen to maintain open lines of communication with China in the military domain “to prevent misperception and miscalculation and to prevent crises from spinning out of control.”

The development came amid reports that Beijing notified Washington earlier this month that “there is little chance” of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu meeting with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin in Singapore due to sanctions placed on the Chinese defense chief over his alleged involvement in the purchase of Russian advanced weapons.

Ratner, however, claimed that such restrictions should in no way prevent Li from holding talks with Austin, saying, “The ball is in their court at this point.”

This is while Beijing further declared last week that it sees no reason to keep talking with Washington as long as the US pursues a wholly disingenuous policy and continues raise pressure on China through sanctions. 

"Where is the sincerity and sense of dialogue, when the US side talks about the need to maintain contacts only to use them as a means to put pressure on China and hamstring our country," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a press briefing last Monday. 

The Chinese official further demanded that Washington "immediately lift sanctions" against Beijing.

"It is necessary to create a favorable atmosphere and favorable conditions for dialogue and contact," Mao then explained.

US-China ties have grown severely strained since last August, when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Chinese Taipei, which China sees as a provocative move, breaching the internationally accepted “One China” principle and inciting the secessionists on an inseparable part of its territory.

Meanwhile, Li met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin last month.

Both top officials approved and praised the “strategic” nature of relations between the two countries and their growing military cooperation.

“We are working actively through our military departments, regularly exchange useful information, work together in the field of military-technical cooperation, and hold joint exercises,” Putin told Li, as quoted by Russian media. “This is, undoubtedly, another important area that strengthens the exclusively trusting, strategic nature of our relations.”

“We have very strong ties. They surpass the military-political alliances of the Cold War era... They are very stable,” said Li, who was appointed to his post in March replacing Wei Fenghe as China’s defense minister.

“This is my first overseas visit since taking over as China’s defense minister...I specifically chose Russia for this in order to emphasize the special nature and strategic importance of our bilateral ties,” Li said.

Russia and China have expanded cooperation in the past two years, driven by the mutual desire to counterbalance American global dominance.

Moscow and Beijing plan to regularly organize joint maritime and air patrols in efforts to “deepen military mutual trust” with Russia to help ensure international justice and make new contributions to international and regional security, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said during a press briefing on April 30, 2023.

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