WASHINGTON: Beijing has declined a US invitation for a meeting in Singapore between Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu, the Pentagon said.
“Overnight, the PRC informed the US that they have declined our early May invitation for Secretary Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu in Singapore this week,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said on Monday in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“The PRC’s concerning unwillingness to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions will not diminish (the Defence Department’s) commitment to seeking open lines of communication with the People’s Liberation Army,” he said.
When asked about the meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry would not confirm that Beijing had declined the invitation. “The US knows clearly why there are currently difficulties in military communication between China and the US,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular press conference on Tuesday.
“The US should earnestly respect China’s concerns of sovereignty, security and interests, immediately correct its incorrect actions, show sincerity, and create the atmosphere and conditions for China-US military dialogue,” she said.
A senior US defence official described the declined invitation as “just the latest in a litany of excuses,” saying that since 2021, China has “declined or failed to respond to over a dozen requests from the Department of Defence for key leader engagements, multiple requests for standing dialogues, and nearly ten working-level engagements.” Li was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 for buying Russian weapons, but the Pentagon says that does not prevent Austin from conducting official business with him.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023