US request for meeting between military chiefs is turned down by China.
The US asked China to let their defence chiefs meet at an annual security gathering in Singapore this weekend, but China said no. This is a new sign of tension between the two countries.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon said, “Overnight, the PRC told the US that they have turned down our invitation for Secretary Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu in Singapore in early May.” The PRC stands for the People’s Republic of China, which is its official name.
“To make sure that competition doesn’t turn into conflict,” the Pentagon said, “we believe in open communication.”
John Kirby, who is a spokeswoman for the White House, said last week that the Defence Department was talking about starting talks between Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart, who was named defence minister in March.
Regional security tensions and trade disputes have made it hard for the world’s two biggest economies to get back together. This made people very interested in the idea of them meeting.
Last week, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met in Washington. It was the first time in months that two cabinet-level officials from the US and China talked to each other.
Ian Storey, a security expert in Singapore, said that China’s choice not to visit Austin was not a good sign.
“At a time when tensions between the US and China are getting worse, General Li’s refusal to meet his American counterpart will make things worse,” Storey said.
Also, China is getting ready to send a citizen into space for the first time.
Austin and Li will be in Singapore for the annual Shangri-la Dialogue, which starts on Friday. The Shangri-la Dialogue is a casual gathering of defence officials and experts that also hosts a number of smaller meetings.
Both are likely to meet with their peers from other parts of the region.
Chinese officials haven’t said why Li didn’t show up, but some security experts said Beijing’s anger over US sanctions against him could be a factor.
Security experts say that Li is a veteran of the work to modernise the People’s Liberation Army. Since 2018, the US has put sanctions on Li because he bought combat aircraft and equipment from Russia’s main arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.
Li is a member of China’s top defence body, the Central Military Commission, which is led by President Xi Jinping.