China-US naval summit sunk after PLA senior officers go AWOL

US Admiral Phil Davidson accuses Beijing of not honoring ‘agreements’ after Chinese representatives fail to show up for talks

China has been accused of not honoring its “agreements” by a senior officer in the United States Navy.

Admiral Phil Davidson, the commander for US Indo-Pacific Command, waded into the row after representatives of the People’s Liberation Army failed to attend a virtual summit this week to discuss maritime safety.

Both sides have met regularly since 1998 as part of the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement or MMCA, the Reuters news agency reported.

The facts:

  • The MMCA is designed to review “unsafe military incidents” between the US and PLA forces.
  • The talks are crucial with tension rising in the South and East China Seas.
  • Beijing announced its decision to go AWOL from the three-day meeting 24 hours after it was due to end on November 16.

What Admiral Davidson said: “[This was] another example that China does not honor its agreements. This should serve as a reminder to all nations as they pursue agreements with China going forward … [But] we remain committed to the MMCA and call on the PLA to hold the MMCA dialogue in a manner consistent with the MMCA Charter and purpose as an operational safety dialogue.”

In response, Colonel Liu Wensheng, of the PLA Navy, said: “The United States insisted on pushing its unilateral agenda … even attempting to force China to participate in the meeting before the two sides reached an agreement on the topics.”

China Factor comment: Relations between Washington and Beijing are stuck firmly in the deep freeze. During the past 18 months, Sino-American ties have rapidly deteriorated over a range of issues. They include Beijing’s initial cover-up of the Covid-19 outbreak, US military support for the island democracy of Taiwan, and the crackdown on ‘freedom of expression’ in Hong Kong after the 2019 pro-democracy protests. Another bone of contention is a planned Chinese underway internet cable connecting the Pacific islands.