30th May 2023 – (Washington) On 29th May, 2023, the Pentagon announced that China had declined an invitation from the US for a meeting between Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu in Singapore.
The Defence Department expressed concern about China’s unwillingness to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions, but reiterated its commitment to seeking open lines of communication with the People’s Liberation Army. 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, according to a senior US defence official. 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. Austin is due to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a defence summit in Singapore, later this week.
Austin and other U.S. officials have been working to shore up alliances and partnerships in Asia as part of efforts to counter increasingly assertive moves by Beijing, but there have also been tentative signs that the two sides were working to lower the temperature.