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US not out to ‘decouple’ from China, defence official says in Beijing

BEIJING: The United States is not seeking to "decouple" from China and not asking any country to choose sides, a senior US defence official said on Monday (Oct 21), offering a softer outlook on relations bruised by a bitter trade war.

China has been nervous that the United States is seeking to sever, or at least severely curb, economic ties in what has been called a "decoupling". Beijing fears that the Trump administration wants a complete separation with China.

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The two countries have been working to resolve their trade dispute, with the United States announcing a "phase 1" deal with China on trade matters and suspending a scheduled tariff hike for October.

Speaking in Beijing at a high-profile Chinese military forum, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Chad Sbragia sought to place relations in a more positive light.

"One area that I would comment and challenge on is – I've heard this on this panel and other panels – the idea that the United States approach is fundamentally based on decoupling," Sbragia said at a panel on the sidelines of the Xiangshan Forum.

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"I'll tell you from personal experience that's not only not official US policy, that's not even a policy discussion that I hear in my day-to-day business. That's not even how we think about that," he said.

"If decoupling was actually the practice, what you would see on a day-to-day basis would be fundamentally different than what you see."

What the United States is trying to do is "rebalance and right relationships to ensure that we have equity", Sbragia, who is leading the US delegation to the forum, added.

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Both countries want to enhance stability and deepen their relationship to reinforce crisis avoidance, he said.

"It's just the opposite of decoupling. It's not to pull apart. It's actually to in some ways deepen those relationships."

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