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The Chinese government has requested a meeting in Singapore next week with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin according to multiple media reports.
On Friday, Foreign Policy reporter Jake Detsch tweeted, “NEW: China’s military has formally requested a meeting between Defense Secretary Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore next week: senior US defense official The planned meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue to focus on ‘managing competition’ between U.S. & China.”
Reuters reporter Idress Ali also tweeted, “China has formally reached out to the Pentagon about a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore later this month. From the U.S. side, focus will be on ‘managing competition,’ a U.S. official says.”
The revelation about China’s request to meet with Austin comes after Austin told Nikkei Asia on Wednesday that he would be open to expanding U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and would “make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability commensurate with the Chinese threat.”
In reaction to Austin’s remarks to Nikkei Asia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao said, “We have always firmly opposed U.S. arms sales to China’s Taiwan region, which gravely infringes on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and interferes in China’s domestic affairs.”
While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China considers the island a part of its territory. For decades, the U.S. has provided weapon systems to Taiwan, bolstering its defenses.
Lijian also said the U.S. should “stop the erroneous practice of ganging up and stoking political antagonism and military confrontation in the region, and play a constructive role in enhancing mutual trust and cooperation among regional countries.”
It is unclear if Austin’s remarks about Taiwan prompted the Chinese request for a meeting. Austin was already planning to visit Asia, departing on Tuesday, June 7.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported aides to Austin and their Chinese counterparts had been working to set up a meeting between Austin and Wei while Austin visits Singapore.
Singapore is hosting the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Security Summit, also known as the “Shangri-La Dialogue” from June 10 to 12. Both the U.S. and China have been regular attendees at the annual defense and security policy summit.