US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed “deep concern” about China’s reluctance to engage in military crisis management at the Shangri-La Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 3.
In his speech at the summit titled “US Leadership in the Indo-Pacific Region,” he said, “For responsible defense leaders, any time is a good time to speak,” and “the more we talk, the more we avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crises or conflicts”.
Austin stressed that a war in the Taiwan Strait would be devastating and affect the global economy “in ways we can’t even imagine.” He pointed out that the United States is firmly committed to maintaining the status quo in Taiwan, “a conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable,” and will maintain the strong deterrent force of the United States.
China criticized “an alarming number of dangerous interceptions of US and allied aircraft” in international airspace, and reiterated that the US will support allies and partners against “coercion and bullying”.
At the opening dinner of the summit the other night, Austin State Councilor and China and Defense Minister Li Shangfu were arranged to eat at the same table, but a few seats apart. There is a video of Austin taking the first step to walk to Li Shangfu’s seat, shaking hands with a smile on his face and having a short conversation.
“A warm handshake at a dinner party is no substitute for a real exchange,” Austin said afterward.
The Pentagon issued a statement stating that the two did not have significant exchanges. The Department of Defense believes in maintaining unimpeded communication channels and will continue to seek meaningful military discussions at multiple levels and manage this relationship responsibly.
The former Indonesian ambassador to China, Emmanuel Emuron, told the official Chinese media “Global Times” that the Chinese and American defense ministers shook hands at the dinner table thanks to China’s long history and culture, “I will not speak coldly about some friendly gestures or greetings In contrast, Chinese culture is rich enough to accept greetings from anyone”.
Li Shangfu, who has been sanctioned by the United States since 2018, previously declined an invitation to meet Austin. He is expected to deliver a speech titled “China’s New Security Initiative” at the summit on June 4.
Australian PM calls on US and China to build ‘guardrails’
Relations between the US and China have fallen to their lowest point in decades over the balloon incident, Taiwan and the South China Sea Reuters pointed out that US military officials have repeatedly asked to establish a channel open communication with China but they were rejected.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Security Summit that the United States and China should strengthen exchanges and build “guard rails.” He supported US President Joe Biden to “try again” to open communication channels with China.
“If decision-makers can’t answer the phone and clear things up, there’s always a greater risk of spillover into irreversible actions and reactions,” he said.
“Whether a conflict occurs in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere, it not only affects the major powers or the location of the conflict, it is harmful to the whole world.”