Officials in Washington and Beijing have agreed to high-level conversations between their militaries, according to a person familiar with the matter.
During a 3 1/2-hour virtual summit with President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to support such discussions between the US military and top officials from the People’s Liberation Army, including the vice chairman of the country’s powerful Central Military Commission, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
The White House is now defining a strategy on how to approach these engagements, including in the areas of cybersecurity, space and nuclear weapons, as well as testing and deployment issues of concern to the US, the person said. The discussions won’t be formal arms control negotiations of the kind that the US previously held with the Soviet Union and Russia, according to the person, who said the exact format for the forthcoming military-to-military talks is still to be determined.
The agreement is a further sign of thawing ties between the world’s two largest economies and comes after months of escalating tensions, fuelled most recently by China’s test of a hypersonic weapon and a warning from Pentagon intelligence officials that China’s nuclear arsenal was growing more quickly than expected.
A National Security Council spokesman said that, during his summit with Xi, Biden raised the importance of managing strategic risk and establishing guardrails to avoid miscalculation
and misperception. The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration remains interested in engaging with appropriate military counterparts, but emphasised that such engagement hasn’t yet taken place.
After almost nine months in office, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has yet to speak to his counterpart at China’s defense ministry,
a government organisation that formally represents the Chinese military to the world but lacks the power of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission.
Asked about the prospect of high-level talks, Pentagon officials pointed to a briefing, when Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration is seeking “ways that we can cooperate with China on climate, for example” and “we’d like nothing more than to be able to deter any conflict or miscalculation.” The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Following their virtual summit, Xi and Biden agreed in principle to talk again, but the US didn’t ask for a specific date or time, the person said. The agreement to elevate ties between the countries’ militaries marks a step towards reestablishing regular channels of high-level communication between them. US officials have long complained that the kind of highly orchestrated, formal dialogues preferred by Beijing are unproductive. Former President Donald Trump scrapped most regular high-level talks with the exception of trade negotiations.
The Biden administration has been cautious so far about reconstituting previous formats for talks. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in July that she and her staff have no plans to resurrect the regular US-China economic dialogue scrapped by Trump.
Biden’s doctors say he’s ‘healthy’ but suffers gait
President Joe Biden is “healthy” and remains “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” his doctors said after he underwent a routine physical exam and colonoscopy just a day before his 79th birthday.
But the president is suffering from a “perceptibly stiffer and less fluid” gait following a series of injuries and is experiencing a more frequent need to clear his throat or cough during public engagements, according to his physician, Kevin O’Connor. And his exam found mild nerve damage in the president’s feet, prompting them to suggest he be fitted with orthotics.
Still, doctors reported no findings “consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder” or motor weakness. The president is being treated with common prescription and over-the-counter medicines for minor conditions including spinal arthritis and seasonal allergies.
Biden, the oldest person to ever be elected president, has faced extra scrutiny about his health because of his age and some critics’ efforts to
undermine him. In addition to a routine physical, the president underwent anesthesia for a colonoscopy, requiring him to briefly transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris.
The president told reporters at the White House he felt “good” following his exam. “I feel great, nothing’s changed,” Biden said, before joking about his age.
Republicans — including, most notably, former President Donald Trump — have frequently criticized Biden’s acuity, including making unfounded claims about his mental competence. The attacks appear to have worn on perceptions of the president, with just 40% of respondents in a Politico/Morning Consult poll earlier this month describing Biden as in “good health.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday attributed that perception to “quite a bit of of conspiracy theory pushing out there on a range of social media platforms and even through the mouths of elected officials.”
She said the administration is “going beyond” past precedent in providing information about Biden’s health. The memo from O’Conner was significantly more detailed than similar information provided by the Trump White House about the president’s health, offering granular details, including that the president’s colonoscopy revealed a 3mm polyp that doctors believe is benign. It was removed and results of a histology to evaluate the polyp will be completed in the coming days, O’Connor wrote.
Doctors also said they believe Biden’s frequent throat clearing is the result of gastroesophageal reflux, and have recommended he continue taking Pepcid as an acid blocker. Former President Barack Obama similarly struggled with reflux, which in 2014 prompted an hasty examination after a sore throat lasted for weeks.
Biden’s medical team reported that he previously had several sinus and nasal passage operations to address allergies and congestion. Biden takes a nasal spray and over-the-counter allergy medicine to address the issue.
Doctors also treated “several small areas” of Biden’s skin with liquid nitrogen cryotherapy, but did not believe any were suspicious for skin cancer or required biopsy. Biden had several localized skin cancers removed before taking office. Dental and optometry exams were routine, and the president’s contact lens prescription was updated.