On April 20, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a phone conversation with General Wei Fenghe, Minister of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in the context that Beijing might provide military support to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

In a brief statement after the call, the Pentagon said, “Secretary Austin and General Wei discussed U.S.-PRC defense relations, regional security issues and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

The defense ministry in Beijing provided a slightly more detailed account, stating that Wei “stressed that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. It is a fact and reality that no one can change.”

According to the ministry, Wei conveyed to Austin that “China demands that the United States stop military provocations at sea and not use the Ukrainian issue to discredit, frame, threaten and pressure China.”

A senior defense official told the Associated Press that during the call, Austin repeated President Joe Biden’s messages on the significance of managing the U.S.-Chinese strategic competition, including in the nuclear, space, and cyber arenas, as well as enhancing crisis communications between the global powers.

The official added that Austin also expressed U.S. concerns about what the U.S. sees as Chinese military provocations against Taiwan. He also reiterated the United States’ concerns about Chinese activities in the South and the East China Sea and its concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

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