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Tuesday June 25, 2024

US, Chinese defence chiefs to meet following Taiwan tension

By AFP
May 26, 2024
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Chinas Defence Minister Dong Jun. — Reuters/File
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and China's Defence Minister Dong Jun. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet his Chinese counterpart, the Pentagon announced Friday, after Beijing carried out war games around Taiwan in a sign to the US-backed democracy’s new leader.

The Pentagon said that Austin would meet Chinese Admiral Dong Jun when they attend the May 31-June 2 Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of defense officials around the world.

China this week encircled Taiwan with warships and fighter jets in a test of its ability to seize the island, which it claims.

The drills followed the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who has vowed to safeguard self-ruling Taiwan’s democracy. Austin’s meeting with Dong had been widely expected since they spoke by telephone in April, in what were the first substantive talks between the two powers’ defense chiefs in nearly 18 months.

President Joe Biden’s administration and China have been stepping up communication to ease friction, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Beijing and Shanghai last month.

But defense talks had lagged behind until Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a resumption of military dialogue during a summit with Biden in California in November.

Austin will also travel next week to Cambodia for talks with defense ministers of the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN and end his trip in France, where he will join President Joe Biden in commemorations of the 80th anniversary of D-Day.