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China, US Agree to High-Level Military Consultations to Avoid Close Calls

© AP Photo / Files / This combination of file photos shows U.S. President Donald Trump on March 28, 2017, in Washington, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Feb. 22, 2017, in Beijing
This combination of file photos shows U.S. President Donald Trump on March 28, 2017, in Washington, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Feb. 22, 2017, in Beijing - Sputnik International
Following their summit in Palm Beach, Florida, the leaders of China and the US agreed to establish a new channel for top-rank military communication in order to avoid unwanted military accidents.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump agreed to establish a new conduit for direct military communication to avert unnecessary military accidents and minimize military confrontation.

The military branches of both countries should also "improve the existing notification mechanism on military action and the code of unexpected encounters between their navies and air forces," XI said, China's Xinhua news agency reports.

Such unexpected encounters do occur now and then, as in 2016, when China's navy captured a US naval reconnaissance drone, leading to a few days of tension.

The news comes in the wake of the US missile strike against Syria that was launched while Xi was visiting Trump at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

"[Xi] stressed that the main priority for now is avoiding the escalation in the country and protection of the crisis settlement process," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said after the attack, adding that the Chinese leader opposes the use of chemical weapons. The US strike came as a response to an alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Media analysts point out that one of the key points of tension between the US and China is the issue of North Korea, whose nuclear program has "reached an urgent stage," according to White House officials. China is believed to be a silent supporter of North Korea, despite officially joining the international sanctions, experts say. The attack on Syria is perceived by many as a signal to Xi that the US is ready to resort to force to find a resolution to the ongoing issue of North Korean weapons testing.

According to John Park, a specialist on Northeast Asia at Harvard's Kennedy School, Xi could have used the situation like a poker player: watching Trump closely and making conclusions about how he would act under pressure. And while Trump's muscular message is likely to be perceived by Xi with a certain degree of skepticism, there is one thing Xi has surely noted.

"This shows how low a bar there is for the use of military force," Park said.

If that is the reality, then the direct communication channels will surely come in handy.

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