China declined a request from the US to hold a bilateral meeting between the two countries’ defense chiefs during the upcoming annual security forum in Singapore, Reuters reported.
In a statement on Monday, the Pentagon revealed that Beijing had notified the Defense Department that it was declining the invitation made in early May for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with China’s Minister of Defense Li Shangfu.
Li, who was named defense minister in March, has been under sanctions by the United States since 2018 for purchasing combat aircraft and equipment from Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport.
Last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that discussions were underway in the Pentagon to get talks started between Secretary Austin and Defense Minister Li.
On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry blamed its decision to decline the meeting on the United States, claiming that the US is “well aware” of the reasons for the lack of communication between US and Chinese defense officials.
At a briefing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters that the United States must “show sincerity” and “immediately correct its wrong practices” if it wants to “create the necessary atmosphere and conditions” for the two militaries to communicate.
In the first US/China cabinet-level meeting in months, last week Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met in Washington where they discussed investment, trade, and export policies.
Security analyst Ian Storey told Reuters that China’s decision not to meet with Secretary Austin “will fray regional nerves even further” at a time when tensions between the two countries have been already rising.
Both Secretary Austin and Defense Minister Li will be attending the annual Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore where they are expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with counterparts from the region. The informal meeting of defense officials opens on Friday.