US Secretary of Defense set to meet his Chinese counterpart for the first time on Indo-Pacific trip

A date and time for Austin to meet Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe has yet to be set, the official said, but Austin is scheduled to speak at the Shangri-La dialogue. on Saturday June 11, one day before Wei. speak.

The two only spoke to each other once on the phone. On April 20, Austin and Wei spoke for about 45 minutes, marking the first time a U.S. defense secretary had addressed his Chinese counterpart since the Trump administration more than a year earlier.

But the Pentagon provided few details about the conversation.

“It was a good first conversation,” another senior defense official said at the time. “There were a range of issues discussed. Obviously the security issues in the Indo-Pacific were raised. I think I’ll leave it at that for now.”

Austin has repeatedly described China as the Defense Department’s “pace challenge” and said the Indo-Pacific region is America’s top priority, even with Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. In Austin’s speech and throughout his meetings at the conference, the official said Austin should stress the importance of the region in future U.S. planning, as well as the emphasis on working with allies and American partners to ensure the region remains open and free.

“Indo-Pacific nations have made it clear that they seek a region rooted in transparency, freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of sovereign states,” the manager said. “At the same time, we have also seen what an attack on these shared principles looks like, from the [People’s Republic of China’s] harassment in the South China Sea to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, and we are actively working to build a more transparent and inclusive security order for the region. »

The already strained relationship between Washington and Beijing boiled over earlier this week when a US congressional delegation visited Taiwan. The delegation, led by Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who said she looked forward to a “deeper and closer” relationship with the United States.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Washington filed a “stern representation” to the United States, according to a statement, urging it to “avoid sending the wrong signals to separatist ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.” .

On Monday, China also sent 30 warplanes to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, the highest daily figure in four months.


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