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US, China hold military talks amid uncertainty in Washington

Dialogue seen by some as move to defuse escalating military tensions between the two sides

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(Facebook, US Navy photo) 

(Facebook, US Navy photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The American and Chinese militaries kickstarted a three-day virtual seminar on Wednesday (Nov. 11) that some hope will help reduce the risk of a conflict between the global powers.

China’s Ministry of National Defense said in a short press release that the two sides were holding online talks from Nanjing and Hawaii focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, disaster control, and humanitarian aid. This is the 16th such dialogue since the two militaries started exchanges on disaster relief in 1997.

The seminar comes as Washington grapples with administrative chaos and uncertainty amid President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede after losing the election. Trump’s abrupt removal of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and three top Pentagon officials this week has also caused concerns about national security and greater vulnerability.

Pang Zhongying, an international relations expert at the Ocean University of China, believes the talks are a “pragmatic sign” of engagement. The inclusion of the coronavirus on the agenda also signals a shift from the Trump administration’s belligerent approach towards Beijing on the front of pandemic response, wrote South China Morning Post.

Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times cited a military expert as suggesting that low-hanging fruit such as disaster relief and medicine are the areas on which the two sides are still able to maintain communication.

Military tensions between the two countries have been growing in the past months, marked by more brazen maneuvers in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Beijing vowed retaliation last month after the U.S. announced additional arms sales to Taiwan.