- Austin and other US officials have been working to strengthen alliances and relationships in Asia as a way to counter Beijing's more assertive moves.
- President Joe Biden said that relations between Washington and Beijing should warm up "very soon," naming the incident with the spy balloon as one thing that had made things worse.
The Pentagon said Monday that China turned down the US’s offer for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese colleague Li Shangfu to meet in Singapore.
“Overnight, the PRC told the US that they have turned down our invitation for Secretary Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu in Singapore this week,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) worrying unwillingness to have meaningful military-to-military talks won’t stop the Defense Department from trying to open lines of communication with the PRC,” Ryder said.
A senior US defense official said that China’s refusal was “just the latest in a long list of excuses.” He said that since 2021, China has “refused or failed to respond to over a dozen requests from the Department of Defense for key leader engagements, multiple requests for standing dialogues, and nearly ten working-level engagements.”
In 2018, the US government put sanctions on Li because he bought Russian weapons, but the Pentagon says that doesn’t stop Austin from doing business with him.
Austin will go to Singapore later this week to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a defense meeting where he met Li’s predecessor Wei Fenghe last June.
Austin and Wei met again in Cambodia later in 2022, but tensions between Washington and Beijing grew this year over issues like Taiwan and a supposed Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by a US warplane after flying over the country.
Austin and other US officials have been working to strengthen alliances and relationships in Asia as a way to counter Beijing’s more assertive moves. There have also been some small signs that the two sides are trying to cool things down.
This month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna. Recently, President Joe Biden said that relations between Washington and Beijing should warm up “very soon,” naming the incident with the spy balloon as one thing that had made things worse.