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‘Serious issues with self-awareness’: China urges US to find ‘courage’ to address own mistakes after bilateral military talks

Beijing welcomes dialogue with the United States, but insists Washington must take steps to end “continuous provocations and suppression of China,” Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters on Thursday, not long after military officials on both sides held a pair of virtual meetings. 

“The military relationship has faced many difficulties and challenges,” Wu said. “But the US has serious issues with its self-awareness, its perception of China and in its understanding of the world today, which is the root cause of the difficulties in the relationship between our militaries.”

While Wu hit out at the US’ attempts at “provocation and containment of China” and noted a litany of outstanding issues between the two nations, he stressed that the Chinese and American militaries have “always maintained communication.”

The spokesman’s comments came on the heels of two days of virtual talks held Tuesday and Wednesday, led by Huang Xueping, deputy director for the Chinese military’s office for international military cooperation, and Michael Chase on the US side, who serves as a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Though the Pentagon announced the talks on Wednesday, it offered few details, saying only that “the two sides held a frank, in-depth, and open discussion on a range of issues” at the time. During a Thursday presser, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also refused to elaborate, though did say the sit-down was “professional” and “productive,” while noting the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “believes that an open channel of communication is important.”

US-China tensions have soared to new heights in recent years, with Washington repeatedly condemning Beijing over alleged human rights abuses against its Muslim Uyghur population, as well as improper international trade practices and other charges. China, meanwhile, has blasted the ongoing US military presence in the Indo-Pacific as provocative and inherently threatening, as the Pentagon routinely sails warships through the South China Sea – as well as the Taiwan Strait – for so-called “freedom of navigation” missions.

READ MORE: US accuses Beijing of sabotaging ‘rules-based’ world order & decries ‘protocol violation’ after Chinese hit back at Alaska talks

Underscoring the current enmity, a high-level meeting in Alaska last March got off to a dramatic start, as officials from both countries immediately launched into accusations against one another. It appears little was achieved during the summit – the first senior meeting between the two powers under the Joe Biden administration – as hostilities have only escalated in the months since.

Relations have soured even further in recent weeks, as Beijing has vocally denounced a new trilateral security pact between the US, the UK and Australia, dubbed “AUKUS,” which will see the United States furnish the Aussies with nuclear-powered submarines, among other things.

“The cooperation between the United States, Britain and Australia poses a serious risk of nuclear proliferation and violates the spirit of the ‘NPT,’” Wu said at the Thursday press conference, referring to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which now counts some 191 nations as signatories.

[The AUKUS deal] will seriously intensify the regional arms race, undermine regional peace and stability, undermine international nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and endanger world peace and security.

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