Military ties between the world's two largest economies could remain at a deadlock until both parties make progress on thorny political and economic issues, strategists predict.
In an effort to ease diplomatic hostilities that spiked following U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's sharp critique of Beijing earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of an Asian security summit in Singapore on Thursday.
No new agreements were announced, but Chinese media reported that both sides agreed to deepen trust during the hour-and-a-half discussion. Mattis and Wei also discussed an existing invitation for Wei to visit Washington, the Associated Press reported.
However, it's unclear whether talks can meaningfully improve military links, which have suffered as the trade war spills over into other aspects of the U.S.-China relationship.
"Substantive issues will need to be addressed before the U.S. and China can continue military dialogue," said Alexander Neill, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at The International Institute for Strategic Studies. "Traditionally, military ties lag behind other areas of the bilateral relationship so I don't think any progress can be made until the trade war and other economic issues get sorted out."
The two superpowers have already scaled down several high-level security engagements amid ongoing trade concerns.