China Rejects US Invitation for Defense Secretary Austin to Meet with Chinese Counterpart in Singapore Defense Summit

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Beijing has declined an invitation from the United States for a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu during a defense summit in Singapore. The Pentagon announced on Monday that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) informed the US that they had rejected the early May invitation. The decision comes as the latest in a series of refusals by China to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions.

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder expressed concern over the PRC’s unwillingness to participate in such discussions but reiterated the Defense Department’s commitment to seeking open lines of communication with the People’s Liberation Army. The declined invitation is seen as just one of many excuses made by China since 2021, as they have repeatedly declined or failed to respond to requests for key leader engagements and dialogues. The US government had previously sanctioned Li Shangfu in 2018 for purchasing Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has stated that this should not prevent Austin from conducting official business with him.

Austin is scheduled to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a defense summit in Singapore later this week, where he previously met Li’s predecessor, Wei Fenghe, in June last year. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been escalating over various issues, including Taiwan and an alleged Chinese spy balloon incident. However, there have been recent efforts to lower the temperature between the two countries. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna, and President Joe Biden has expressed optimism that ties between the US and China will thaw soon.

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