China Blames U.S. for 'Provocation' That Creates 'Difficulties' for Both Militaries

China blamed the U.S. for the "considerable difficulties and challenges" between the two militaries as defense officials from both countries held video conferences in hopes of improving relations, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said the U.S. is to blame for "continuous provocation and containment" of China for the "considerable difficulties and challenges."

Wu said that during the calls, the countries "exchanged in-depth views on relations between the two countries and the two militaries and issues of common concern."

Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners said the two sides held "a frank, in-depth and open discussion on a range of issues."

Meiners said the meeting was "an important component of the Biden-Harris administration's ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the U.S. and the PRC by maintaining open lines of communication with the PRC."

As relations between the U.S. and China continue to be strained by deep mistrust over technology, military activities, human rights and trade, Meiners said: "Both sides reaffirmed consensus to keep communication channels open. The U.S. side also made clear our commitment to uphold shared principles with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region."

The calls were held Tuesday and Wednesday, led by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Michael Chase and People's Liberation Army's Office for International Military Cooperation Deputy Director Major General Huang Xueping.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

China and U.S. discuss military operations
Defense officials from China and the U.S. have held two days of talks in a small sign of progress amid a continuing sharp downturn in relations. Above, military delegates arrive for the closing session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on May 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

"China's sovereignty, dignity and core interests broke no violations," Wu said at a monthly briefing. "Regarding the relationship between the two armed forces, we welcome communication, welcome cooperation, face differences and oppose coercion."

China has been angered by the Navy sending ships to sail close to islands it controls in what Washington calls freedom of navigation operations, along with U.S. support for Taiwan.

President Joe Biden has maintained a tough line on China, but has sought better communication with Beijing. The talks between Huang and Chase are believed to mark the first direct high-level contact between defense officials under the Biden administration.

The talks also follow revelations that the top U.S. military officer, Army General Mark Milley, made a pair of calls to his Chinese counterpart on October 30 and January 8 to reassure him during the waning days of the Trump administration.

Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday he was responding to a "significant degree of intelligence" that China was worried about a U.S. attack. He said that such military-to-military communications are critical to prevent war between great powers that possess nuclear weapons.

China has not commented on the calls.

Wu also reiterated China's opposition to a three-way strategic defense alliance announced by Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. that includes building nuclear-propelled submarines for Australia. Beijing views the arrangement as firmly directed at containing its development.

"China urges the three countries to abandon their Cold War mentality and zero-sum game thinking, revoke the mistaken decision to develop nuclear submarine cooperation," Wu said.

China and U.S. discuss military operations
China blamed the U.S. for the "considerable difficulties and challenges" between the two militaries as defense officials from both countries held video conferences in hopes of improving relations. Above, paramilitary policemen and military officers hold flowers walk to pay respects to the People's Heroes Monument during a ceremony to mark Martyr's Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on September 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) Andy Wong/Associated Press