Chinese, U.S. military chiefs hold crisis communication, says China defence ministry

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FILE PHOTO: Sea Hawk helicopter launches during flight operations aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea

Chinese, U.S. military chiefs hold crisis communication, says China defence ministry

FILE PHOTO: Sea Hawk helicopter launches during flight operations aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese and U.S. military chiefs held talks on crisis communication this week, amid heightened tensions between the two military superpowers this year in the South China Sea, with the United States denying a report on a possible drone attack.

The exchange, days ahead of the U.S. elections, came as U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper toured Asia with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where they had urged countries to cooperate with the United States to confront the security threats posed by China, a position China has criticised as a Cold War mentality and zero-sum mindset.

The Chinese and U.S. militaries held a video conference meeting about crisis communication on Oct. 28-29, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday.

According to Wu, Esper denied a media report about the United States studying a plan to attack Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea using an MQ-9 drone in the event that the U.S. presidential election was not looking favourable for President Donald Trump.

Esper said the United States "has no intention of creating a military crisis with the Chinese," according to Wu.

"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," Wu said, adding that China will resolutely counter-strike if provoked with an attack at sea.

Both militaries will exchange views via video conferencing on humanitarian aid in mid-November and on maritime security before the end of the year, Wu said.

The Pentagon did not say if Esper specifically took part in the talks, but said they were an opportunity to create principles to "prevent and manage crisis and reduce risk to forces."

"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," a Pentagon statement said.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Daniel Wallis)