Mattis meets with Chinese defense minister amid tensions

Mattis meets with Chinese defense minister amid tensions
© Greg Nash

Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief Trump moves to install loyalists MORE met with his Chinese counterpart on Thursday amid rising tensions between the two nations.

Mattis and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe spoke for 85 minutes on the sidelines of an annually scheduled meeting between the U.S. and Asian defense ministers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The two discussed almost every major military issue between the two countries, officials at the meeting told the Journal.

ADVERTISEMENT

In particular, Mattis pushed for communication between high officials in both countries' militaries when problems arise, according to U.S. officials at the meeting. 

“Especially when we have times of differences and irritants, we should seek to deepen our contact, particularly at the high level, strategic level, so that we can talk through differences and navigate through differences,” Mattis said, Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver told reporters.

For the most part, according to Schriver, Mattis and Wei discussed China's increasing military presence in the South China Sea, which is one of the most important international shipping lanes and is disputed territory.

Shriver said that the two men didn't resolve disagreements between the U.S. and China about the buildup.

"There will be issues that are long-term challenges to manage," Mr. Schriver said.

The two also spoke about scheduling a visit by Wei to Washington.

The U.S. and China have had a strained military relationship for years, but tensions have been building in recent weeks.

In early October, a Chinese warship had an unsafe interaction with a U.S. destroyer near disputed islands in the South China Sea, a Navy spokesman told The Hill.

In late September, U.S. B-52 bombers flew over the South China Sea and East China Sea, according to U.S. military officials.

The escalating trade war between the two countries has also strained relations.

Last month, Trump hit Beijing with tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. China retaliated, tariffing $60 billion in U.S. imports.

The president has threatened to will impose another $257 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, which would cover all U.S. imports from China.