Washington is engaged with Beijing on multiple fronts as Donald Trump’s administration attempts to force the Chinese into changing their trade practices while also competing for dominance in the South China Sea. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson will embark on a four-day visit to the Asian superpower tomorrow in a bid to discuss ways to reduce the risk of a military miscalculation between the two nuclear-armed states. He said: “I am looking forward to this trip.
“A routine exchange of views is essential, especially in times of friction, in order to reduce risk and avoid miscalculation.
“Honest and frank dialogue can improve the relationship in constructive ways, help explore areas where we share common interests, and reduce risk while we work through our differences.”
Admiral Richardson’s visit comes as Chinese vessels take an increasingly aggressive stance in their mission for dominance in the South China Sea.
Beijing has transformed small spits of land in the disputed Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands into military strongholds in recent years with the aim of controlling one of the world’s most important waterways.
And with a large number of military vessels from both China and the US in the region the South China Sea could provide the flashpoint for conflict.
In October, a Chinese destroyer came extraordinarily close to colliding with a US Navy warship in the area.
Experts have warned this sort of ‘miscalculation’ could rapidly escalate if sailors from either side are killed.
Away from the South China Sea, President Trump is also demanding Beijing address its “unfair” trade practices in a campaign which has come close to escalating into a full-blown trade war.
Both sides have been engaged in a tit-for-tat spat since Mr Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium in March last year.
US officials expect China’s top trade negotiator may visit Washington this month, signalling that higher-level discussions are likely to follow this week’s talks with mid-level officials in Beijing as the world’s two largest economies try to hammer out a deal.
The higher-level talks are seen as important for making the key decisions to ease a festering trade war, which has disrupted trade flows for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and roiled global markets.
President Trump has demanded better terms of trade with China, with the United States pressing Beijing to address such as intellectual property theft.
Mr Trump on Thursday said the United States was having “tremendous success” in its trade negotiations with China.
Last month, a Chinese admiral suggesting Beijing could settle its disputes with Washington by sinking two American aircraft carriers.
Rear Admiral Lou Yuan told an audience in Shenzhen that “what the United States fears the most is taking casualties” before declaring that destroying one of its supercarriers would kill 5,000 navy personnel.