Wendell Minnick, the Taipei-based military reporter and commentator, had an article in Defense News on the 30th discussing how the US military and China’s military are trying to find ways to build bridges to each other….but then there’s Taiwan…

“China says it might use force under certain circumstances, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is clearly making military preparations in case they have to,” Blair said. “U.S. policy under the Taiwan Relations Act is to oppose the use of force, and Pacific Command and U.S. military forces have a responsibility to make military preparations to do that. So the military forces on both sides are both getting ready to fight each other if necessary.”

This tension has made it difficult for Chinese and U.S. military officials to have a serious dialogue on anything other than Taiwan.

“When U.S. and Chinese military officers get together, there is this really big issue of Taiwan in the middle of the conversation,” Blair said. “I have these conversations with the Chinese in which they say Taiwanese splittism is the greatest threat to peace, but I tell them that Chinese impatience is also a pretty big threat to peace.”

He acknowledged that military officers who get together are “try-ing to get a feeling for what kind of a military opponent the other side will be. … We might be shooting at each other soon. So what else do we have to talk about except that? And how do we talk about that without giving away secrets?

“The approach I try to take is to be honest about the military realities. The PLA cannot take Taiwan now, and if Taiwan keeps working on its skills and puts some resources into its defense budget and the U.S. keeps up military development, that military reality is not going to change … We don’t need to impress each other about how tough we are on the Taiwan issue — let’s put this issue in a box and talk about other issues where we have common interests.”

John Tkacik, as usual, took no prisoners:

We must remember that Chinese armies since the time of Sun Tzu in the fifth century B.C. have never put any stock in ‘confidence building’ — except as a deception tactic,” he said. “Chinese strategy relies on minimizing an adversary’s confidence. The PLA has not yet gotten to the point where they want to be predictable when dealing with the U.S. They like as much uncertainty as possible because it supports an overall military doctrine to leverage surprise and deception on the battlefield.”

Tkacik warned that China is taking advantage of wishful thinking at the Pentagon.

“If the Pentagon believes that, somehow, PLA ‘intentions’ will become more transparent simply because generals in Washington have shaken hands with a few generals in Beijing, they are delusional,” he said. “The Chinese army will improve mil-mil exchanges when they feel like it, but of course, they are happy to take any gifts the Pentagon or U.S. field commanders might offer.”

Hopefully the US can keep China convinced it is not in their interests to move against Taiwan….