US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has emphasised the need to improve crisis communications during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart while raising concern about "increasingly dangerous" behaviour by Chinese military aircraft.
The roughly 90-minute meeting in Cambodia, described as "productive and professional" by a US official, was the pair's first since a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August enraged China, which regards the island as its territory.
In his second face-to-face meeting with Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe this year, Austin discussed the importance of "substantive dialogue on reducing strategic risk and enhancing operational safety", Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said after the meeting on Tuesday.
"He (Austin) raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behaviour demonstrated by PLA (China's People's Liberation Army) aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident," Ryder said.
In June, a Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea region in May, Australia's defence department said.
Australia has said that the Chinese jet flew very close in front of the RAAF aircraft and released a "bundle of chaff" containing small pieces of aluminium that were ingested into the Australian aircraft's engine.
Tuesday's meeting of the defence ministers took place on the sidelines of an ASEAN gathering in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
After Pelosi's visit, China announced it was halting dialogue with the United States in a number of areas, including between theater-level military commanders.
A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Austin and Wei had a "lengthy" discussion about Taiwan and also talked about restarting in the coming months some of the mechanisms that had been cancelled after Pelosi's visit.
"There's an expectation that there will be some restart of some of the mechanisms that have been frozen for the last six months," the official said.
Tuesday's talks come after a three-hour meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, aimed at preventing strained ties from spilling into a new Cold War.