US, China hold military talks in Hawaii

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. military officials met their Chinese counterparts earlier this week for a series of meetings in Hawaii focused on how the two countries can operate safely, U.S. officials said on Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden sought to manage tensions over the South China Sea in a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

The two leaders had agreed to resume direct military talks when they met in November.

In a statement, the U.S. military said officials from both countries “reviewed safety-related events over the last few years, and discussed sustaining maritime and aviation operational safety and professionalism.”

China’s defence ministry said in a separate statement published on Saturday that at the meetings the two sides conducted candid and constructive exchanges on the China-U.S. maritime and air security situation.

At the meetings, China also firmly opposed any attempt to endanger its sovereignty and security in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight, the ministry said.

The talks, known as the military maritime consultative agreement (MMCA) working group, took place on April 3 and 4 in Honolulu and were the first such meeting since 2021.

Prior to the November meeting between Biden and Xi, relations between the superpowers had become increasingly acrimonious, with friction over issues from Taiwan to China’s military activity in the South China Sea.

In October, the U.S. military said Chinese military aircraft had carried out risky or reckless maneuvers close to U.S. aircraft nearly 200 times since 2021.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Muralikumar Anantharaman)