The U.S. Navy’s top officer will meet with his Chinese counterpart in China next week as the two powers seek to tamp down rising military and trade tensions.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will travel to Beijing and Nanjing from Jan. 13 to 16, meeting with China’s Central Military Commission leadership and People’s Liberation Army Navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.
“A routine exchange of views is essential, especially in times of friction, in order to reduce risk and avoid miscalculation,” Richardson said in a statement. “Honest and frank dialogue can improve the relationship in constructive ways, help explore areas where we share common interests, and reduce risk while we work through our differences.”
The top U.S. naval officer and Shen met previously at the 2018 International Seapower Symposium, hosted by Richardson in the United States. The two have held three discussions via video teleconference, with the most recent occurring last month. This will be Richardson’s second visit to China as chief naval officer.
The meeting will come in the wake of an announcement Tuesday by Beijing that its so-called carrier killer anti-ship missile had been deployed to the country’s northwest, just a day after the U.S. Navy sailed a warship past disputed islands in the South China Sea.
China’s DF-26 ballistic missile, which reportedly has a range of 3,000 to 4,000 km, was mobilized to the northwest plateau and desert areas, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported, quoting national broadcaster CCTV.
While the actual deployment date was not mentioned, the timing of the reports’ release coincided with a U.S. “freedom of navigation” operation (FONOP) near Chinese-held islands in the South China Sea’s Paracel chain on Monday. In the FONOP, which Washington conducts globally to challenge maritime claims it considers excessive, the U.S. Navy sent the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS McCampbell guided-missile destroyer near the islands — a move China blasted as a “provocation.”
The Global Times report alluded to U.S. operation, quoting an unidentified expert as noting that the deployment “is a good reminder that China is capable of safeguarding its territory.”
“Even when launched from deeper inland areas of China, the DF-26 has a range far-reaching enough to cover the South China Sea,” the expert added.
Beijing has constructed a series of military outposts throughout the waterway, which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, where the U.S., Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies also operate.