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US-Chinese navy discuss major challenges in Indo-Pacific region

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Beijing, April 24: Top US and Chinese naval officials held a rare meeting in China on Wednesday amid the growing tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea and discussed the “increasing security challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region.
Admiral Stephen Koehler, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, met Admiral Yuan Huazhi, political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, (PLAN) on the sidelines of the 19th Western Pacific Naval Symposium being organised by the Chinese navy at the coastal city of Qingdao.
Koehler met Yuan to discuss “increasing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific”, a statement from the US Pacific Fleet, which provides naval forces to the Indo-Pacific Command, said.
Two days earlier, Koehler had met the commander of China’s navy, Admiral Hu Zhongming, according to the statement.
In meetings with Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officials, Koehler discussed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, operational safety and regional security concerns, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted the statement as saying.
The bilateral talks came after a series of senior-level talks between the two militaries, including the most recent between US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun.
The meetings took place alongside the symposium hosted by China and attended by 29 countries, including representatives from rivals Russia and the US.
The talks between Chinese and American naval took place against the backdrop of intensified clashes between China and the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea where they have overlapping territorial disputes.
The Philippines, backed by the US, has been trying to assert its claims over the South China Sea based on the 2016 ruling by a tribunal of the UN Convention of Law of Seas (UNCLOS) endorsing its rights.
China has boycotted the tribunal and rejected its findings.
China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims.
The meeting between the top US and Chinese officials took place as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in China to hold talks with the Chinese leadership on a host of issues exacerbating tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Blinken arrived in Shanghai hours after the US Senate approved an aid package bill setting aside USD 8 billion to counter Chinese threats in Taiwan and the broader Indo-Pacific takeover of China’s popular social media TikTok. (PTI)

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