Mattis To Meet With Chinese Counterpart As Trade War Intensifies

Trade war also had a key role in ruining relations

The proposal - which would be the first such exercise involving the U.S. and all 10 ASEAN countries - has already been approved by ASEAN defence officials, according to ASEAN sources.

"There was a commitment on both sides to try to find a time" for such a meeting, he added.

A meeting between Mattis and Wei was supposed to take place in Beijing last weekend, but it fell through after China declined to make Wei available.

The United States and China in 2015 signed a pact on a military hotline and rules governing air-to-air encounters.

China and Southeast Asian nations will hold their first joint maritime exercises next week in a move aimed at easing tensions in the region.

Schriver had told reporters on Wednesday that the Chinese had requested the Singapore meeting with Mattis.

The Pentagon chief met Thursday with his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, on the sidelines of the gathering as they sought to normalise military relations that have dramatically soured over trade and sanctions tensions.

Mattis, speaking to reporters as he flew to Asia this week, rejected Chinese claims that the United States was acting aggressively and pointed the finger at Beijing. Some observers even went as far as saying that it will only take a small incident to spark a global war between the two superpowers.

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When asked about the flights Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry said it was working to confirm the details but "firmly opposed to any country's behavior that jeopardizes the sovereignty and safe interests of the coastal countries and disturbs the regional peace and stability with the excuse of freedom of navigation and overflight".

"And the military relationship is to be a stabilizing force in the relations between the two countries". Since then, however, a series of irritants have shaken military-to-military ties.

It is important to note that while President Donald Trump continues to be antagonistic towards China, the Pentagon, the country's military arm, continues to act as the voice of reason and moderation when it comes to dealing with the Asian superpower.

A pair of B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew through the disputed South China Sea Tuesday in support of US Indo-Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which is notably meant to send a deterrence message to potential adversaries.

He was apparently referring to China and its increasing activities in the South China Sea.

The pair had been due to meet earlier the month but Beijing cancelled the meeting, apparently in retaliation for Washington sanctioning a unit of China's military for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles in September. Journalists were ushered out once he started to comment on the South China Sea.

As part of a USA effort to enlist support for countering and limiting China's militarization of the South China Sea, Mattis earlier this week visited Vietnam, which has its own disputed territorial claims there.

"They do face potential risk angering China", Schriver said.

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