The virtual meetings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday between Michael Chase, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, and Chinese Maj. Gen. Huang Xueping, Department of Defense Spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners said in a statement.
“During the talks, the two sides held a frank, in-depth, and open discussion on a range of issues affecting the U.S.-PRC [People’s Republic of China] defense relationship,” Meiners said. “Both sides reaffirmed consensus to keep communication channels open.”
The spokesman added that during the talks with China “the U.S. side also made clear our commitment to uphold shared principles with our allies and partners in the Indo–Pacific region.”
The two-day video conference meetings were held two weeks after the announcement of the new AUKUS pact between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which seeks to ramp up collaboration across fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, cyber, and undersea capabilities between the three allies.
The AUKUS deal includes plans for the United States to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian military and replaces a $66 billion deal for submarines struck by Australia and France in 2016.
Beijing has denounced the alliance, which is largely seen as a response by Western allies to the increasingly assertive actions taken by China in the Indo–Pacific region, such as building artificial islands in the South China Sea and an ongoing military build-up.
China has condemned the alliance as “extremely irresponsible,” saying that it could fuel tensions in the Indo–Pacific region and “severely damage” peace and stability.
This was the 16th round of the talks, known as the U.S.–PRC Defense Policy Coordination talks. The last round was held during the administration of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 14 last year.
Meiners called the talks “an important component” of the Biden administration’s efforts to “responsibly manage the competition between the U.S. and the PRC.”
According to White House officials, President Joe Biden acknowledged in a Sept. 22 phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that more consultation could have taken place with the French government ahead of this month’s announcement of the new pact.
“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,” a joint readout of the 30-minute phone call from the Élysée Palace and the White House said.
According to the readout, Biden also reaffirmed “the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo–Pacific region.”
Nick Ciolino and Reuters contributed to this report.