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Senior Pentagon official reportedly holds talks with Chinese military for first time of Biden tenure

For the first time since US President Joe Biden assumed presidential office in January, a senior Pentagon representative has spoken with the Chinese military, Reuters reported Friday, citing an unnamed official.

The conversation took place between Michael Chase, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, and Chinese Major General Huang Xueping, deputy director for the People’s Liberation Army Office for International Military Cooperation. The two reportedly spoke last week.

“(They) utilized the US-PRC Defense Telephone Link today to conduct a secure video conference,” the unnamed official told Reuters.

Chase was said to have focused on “managing crisis and risk” during the conversation, with the report offering no specifics.

In June, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive to get the Defense Department to better compete with Beijing and “address the challenge from China”.

Relations between the countries have not been particularly warm, particularly in light of the US targeting Chinese firms that seek to be listed on the Wall Street stock exchanges and accusations of a lack of transparency in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The latter has been suggested by many to have been caused by a leak from a laboratory in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

A recent US intelligence report concluded that the coronavirus was “probably not” genetically engineered or developed as a “bioweapon”. The report also suggested that Chinese authorities had no foreknowledge of the virus prior to the outbreak. US President Joe Biden and the previous POTUS, Donald Trump, however, assert that China is “withholding critical information” regarding the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.