The United States has put on hold an effort to expand defense ties with China, The Wall Street Journal reported.
It cited the Pentagon as saying it won’t agree to a major new military exchange until the two countries can agree on rules for airborne encounters between their warplanes.
The delay, which doesn’t affect existing military-to-military exchanges, reflects the concern of some US politicians and military officials that an expansion of defense ties with Beijing over the past 18 months hasn’t stopped China from trying to enforce its territorial claims in Asia.
Top US and Chinese naval officials have proposed that a US aircraft carrier make a visit to China, but the Pentagon has deferred any decision until work on an air-intercepts agreement is complete, officials said.
During US President Barack Obama’s trip to China in November, Chinese and US officials announced an agreement to prevent confrontations at sea, with a new set of rules for maritime encounters.
The agreement followed a 2013 incident when a Chinese ship came within 30 metres of the USS Cowpens, a guided missile cruiser, in the South China Sea.
Officials said at the time the maritime agreement would be followed by one covering air-to-air engagements, which have been a source of friction.
In August, the Pentagon said, a Chinese fighter plane came within 15 metres of a Navy P-8 surveillance plane.
China said its pilot kept a safe distance. It also demanded the US stop surveillance flights near its coastline.
US officials remain hopeful a deal will be possible this year but said reaching an agreement on rules for air incidents is more complicated than achieving the maritime accord.
– Contact us at [email protected]