November 23 ------ US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged China to refrain from further "destabilizing actions" toward Taiwan during talks with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe, while emphasizing the need to maintain open lines of communication between the two countries, according to the US Defense Department.
The meeting took place in Cambodia, about a week after their countries' leaders held talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia as part of efforts to manage the increasing competition between the world's two largest economies.
On Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that Beijing views as its own territory, Austin reaffirmed the importance of "peace and stability" across the strait and underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo. Tensions have grown over Taiwan following a visit to the island in August by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the third-highest ranking official in the United States. It was the first visit to the island in 25 years by a holder of the powerful congressional post. China reacted to the trip by conducting large-scale military drills near Taiwan and suspending cooperation with Washington over a range of areas, including climate change and defense exchanges.
According to the Pentagon, Austin discussed with Wei the importance of "substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk, improving crisis communications, and enhancing operational safety." The US defense chief also raised concerns about "the increasingly dangerous behavior" demonstrated by Chinese military aircraft in the Indo-Pacific, as well as recent provocations from North Korea, the Pentagon said, apparently referring to last week's test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile by Pyongyang. Austin called on China to fully enforce existing U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to curb North Korea's weapons programs, according to the Defense Department's press release.
Austin and Wei previously held face-to-face talks in Singapore in June on the fringes of a key security meeting in Asia.