China rejected a U.S. offer to host a meeting between the two countries’ defense ministers, Li Shanfu and Lloyd Austin, using the two ministers’ joint participation in the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in early June, the Financial Times reported, titled the article “China Poured a Lump of Cold Water on Meeting Offer.”
“China told the U.S. that the likelihood of the two countries’ defense ministers meeting at a security forum in Singapore is low because of the sanctions dispute, the latest obstacle to high-level dialogue between the two powers,” the publication wrote.
The Pentagon said it wanted to maintain “open lines of communication” with Chinese military leaders, blaming China for the impasse.
“It was the People’s Republic of China’s decision to ignore, reject or cancel numerous U.S. requests for high-level communication,” the report said.
Li Shanfu is under U.S. sanctions due to the fact that China purchased Su-35 aircraft and equipment for S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia while he was head of the Department of Troop Training and Supply of China’s Central Military Council.
Observers note that President Joe Biden’s administration has a clear interest in resuming military-to-military contacts between the two countries, which were interrupted after the U.S. shot down a Chinese balloon over its territory in February 2023.
Since then, China has rebuffed several attempts by Austin and U.S. Army Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley to contact their Chinese counterparts by telephone, the newspaper recalled. Further cooling of relations between the two countries followed a meeting in the U.S. between U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese Chief of Staff Tsai Ing-wen.
This, experts believe, is also one of the reasons why a phone conversation between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping has not yet taken place, although Washington had announced it would take place shortly after the session of the National People’s Congress, which closed in March.