Defence chiefs from China and the United States have agreed to improve communication channels that have been suspended since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, angering Beijing. But Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin remained firm in their positions on Taiwan and the region when they met in Siem Reap, Cambodia on Tuesday. On the sidelines of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, Wei and Austin discussed concerns over Taiwan, the war in Ukraine , the North Korea nuclear crisis and other global security issues, according to statements from the two sides. The talks ran for about 1½ hours and followed Wei and Austin’s first face-to-face meeting in Singapore in June. The defence chiefs agreed to try to implement the consensus reached between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden when the two presidents met at the Group of 20 summit in Bali last week. That consensus was to avoid military conflict and improve crisis communications by preventing an escalation of the rivalry and confrontation between the two powers. Austin also restated the US commitment to the one-China policy and “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the [Taiwan Strait]”, according to the Pentagon statement. “He underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo and called on [Beijing] to refrain from further destabilising actions towards Taiwan.” Slowing economy, growing distrust erode mainland’s soft-power pull in Taiwan Wei told Austin that the US, not China, was to blame for the current situation and reiterated that the “Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests” and a “red line” that should not be crossed, the Chinese defence ministry statement said. He also repeated Beijing’s stand that Taiwan was “a domestic matter for Chinese people to resolve, and no foreign forces have the right to interfere”, and that the People’s Liberation Army would safeguard Beijing’s “reunification” goal. Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island. It saw Pelosi’s visit to Taipei as a breach of its sovereignty and responded with large-scale military drills around Taiwan, and by halting dialogue with the US on defence and climate change and cooperation on fighting the international drugs trade. Defence ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, who was at the talks, told a briefing it was Beijing’s view that Washington’s “wrong strategic judgment” had caused the suspension of dialogue. Analysts say divergences between Beijing and Washington over regional issues – especially Taiwan – continue to cast a cloud over their military relations, with Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy vowing to visit the self-ruled island as Pelosi did if he becomes speaker. Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing, said the Chinese defence officials’ remarks suggested growing concern over US activities in the region. Is the US Navy’s ageing fleet opening the window for a PLA attack on Taiwan? “If McCarthy follows Pelosi to lead a group of US lawmakers to visit Taiwan again, everything Xi and Biden talked about will be a waste,” Zhou said. “The PLA is also concerned that the US is likely to deploy its most advanced F-22 Raptors and new-generation F-35s to Okinawa [in Japan] permanently, which would definitely send the wrong message to Taiwan’s independence-leaning forces given the proximity of the two islands.” Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said McCarthy was likely to make the trip to Taiwan, noting anti-Chinese sentiment in the US. “It is impossible now to go back to the China-US relationship from before the trade war,” Wu added. In Tuesday’s talks, Austin also raised “concerns about increasingly dangerous behaviour demonstrated” by PLA aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increased the risk of an accident, according to the Pentagon statement. He said the US military would continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allowed. Australia’s defence department in June said a PLA fighter jet had dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane over the South China Sea the previous month. On Saturday, Austin said China was following Russia in seeking a world where “might makes right”. The five-day annual ADMM-Plus security talks began on Sunday and include Association of Southeast Asian Nations dialogue partners Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.