The head of the U.S. and Chinese navies talked about future naval engagements and North Korean issues but not South China Sea issues or freedom of navigation operations during a Thursday video teleconference.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and People’s Liberation Army Navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong spent an hour holding a “friendly, frank and pleasant” conversation, a U.S. official told USNI News.
“The leaders discussed bilateral naval engagements as well as recent missile tests by North Korea,” read a statement from the U.S. Navy.
“During the hour long call, Richardson stressed the importance of regional maritime security and the need for China and the U.S. to work together to address the provocative and unacceptable military behavior by North Korea.”
One of the roles of the U.S. Navy’s forward deployed forces is to maintain a ballistic missile defense capability near North Korea to protect U.S. allies from hostile ballistic missiles. It’s unclear if BMD capabilities came up in the conversation.
The pair talked also talked about future bilateral naval engagements like port visits and exercises. While the U.S. views China as a potential adversary, military to military relationships between the two navies have been good over the last several years.
What didn’t come up was the new round of U.S. freedom of navigation operations or China’s continued militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea, the official told USNI News.
Since the start of the Trump administration, the Navy has conducted two FON ops past Chinese holdings in the South China Sea to continued protests from Beijing.
While the Pentagon is not officially acknowledging the FON ops publically, outside an annual State Department report, USNI News understands the National Security Council has been presented with an ongoing schedule of opportunities for U.S. ships to test excessive maritime claims.
This is the first time Richardson has spoken with Shen since he took command of the PLAN in January from former PLAN head Adm. Wu Shengli. Richardson spoke with Wu three times over VTC and visited Wu in China last July.
At that meeting, Wu reiterated China’s stance on artificial island construction in the South China Sea.
“We will never stop our construction on the Nansha Islands [Spratly] halfway… the Nansha Islands are China’s inherent territory, and our necessary construction on the islands is reasonable, justified and lawful,” PLAN’s Wu Shengli told Richardson, as quoted by the Xinhua News Agency at the time.
“Any attempt to force China to give in through flexing military muscles will only have the opposite effect.”
As for Shen, he and Richardson “met previously at the International Seapower Symposium, hosted by Richardson in 2016. Shen attended the Newport, RI conference as the Chinese Navy representative in his position as South Sea Fleet Commander,” according to a statement from the service.
The following is the complete July 20, 2017 statement on the VTC.
WASHINGTON (NNS) — Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson held a video teleconference (VTC), July 20 with Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Commander.
The leaders discussed bilateral naval engagements as well as recent missile tests by North Korea. During the hour long call, Richardson stressed the importance of regional maritime security and the need for China and the US to work together to address the provocative and unacceptable military behavior by North Korea.
This was the first time Richardson and Shen engaged over VTC. The two admirals met previously at the International Seapower Symposium, hosted by Richardson in 2016. Shen attended the Newport, RI conference as the Chinese Navy representative in his position as South Sea Fleet Commander.
This is Richardson’s fourth VTC with a Chinese Navy counterpart, three previous calls were held with Shen’s predecessor, Admiral Wu Shengli.