World News /

US Defense Secretary Hasn't Spoken With Chinese Counterpart In 'A Couple Of Months'

'He Knows Where To Find Me'

United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revealed he had not heard from his Chinese counterpart, minister of national defense of the People’s Republic of China Wei Fenghe, in “a couple of months.”

Austin was interviewed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Collins asked about Austin’s communication with his Chinese counterpart regarding increased tensions following the discovery of a high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon in January.

“My office reached out to his office … they did not schedule [a] call,” Austin said, noting he wasn’t surprised.

“I think it’s really … important to make sure that we maintain lines of communication open,” he continued. “Leaders need to be able to talk to each other to avoid misperceptions and manage crises.”

“We hope that minister Wei will have a change of heart and schedule that call.”

“The last time I talked to him was a couple of months ago,” Austin revealed when Collins pushed him on previous communication with minister Fenghe.

Collins suggested the lack of communication between the United States Defense Secretary and Chinese minister of defense was concerning.

“It’s not like we don’t have any lines of communication open,” Austin rebutted, citing Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s communication with his Chinese counterpart in Munich, Germany. “There are diplomatic lines of communication open.”

“I think for the military it’s really important that we maintain open lines of communication. … He knows where to find me,” the Defense Secretary said of Fenghe.

Earlier in the interview, Collins noted China was reportedly preparing to provide lethal assistance to Russia in their war efforts, according to United States intelligence.

Austin noted the administration hadn’t seen China provide any “material assistance” to Russia, though noted the option for China was still on the table.

“I’ve engaged my counterpart … and told him this would be a very bad mistake if China were to [provide assistance to Russia],” Austin said.

“I can’t speak for the Chinese,” the Defense Secretary said when asked if China was preparing to provide assistance. “They have tremendous capabilities,” he continued. “If they were to do that, it would be ill-advised.”

“What are the consequences?” Collins asked.

Austin pointed toward other European countries who have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, further reiterating China would be “ill-advised” to provide assistance to Russia. However, he stated he didn’t want to get into “hypotheticals.”

“China has a lot of capability in terms of munitions and weapons,” he said. “If they provide … substantial support to Russia, it prolongs the conflict.”

*For corrections please email [email protected]*