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International relations

US and China defense chiefs seek to head off inadvertent clashes

Near-collision in South China Sea brings two sides to the table

The U.S. has flown B-52 strategic bombers, like the one pictured at right, over the South China Sea this month and last month.
The U.S. has flown B-52 strategic bombers, like the one pictured at right, over the South China Sea this month and last month.   © Reuters

BEIJING/WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on Thursday discussed ways to avoid unintended military encounters as both sides step up military activity in the South China Sea amid heightened tensions over trade.

The two officials spoke for about an hour and a half, 30 minutes longer than planned, on the sidelines of a meeting in Singapore among defense ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nation members and other dialogue partners.

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