US defence chief tells China talks essential to avoid crisis

    WORLD  03 June 2023 - 10:13

    United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on June 3 he was deeply concerned by China's unwillingness to engage in military crisis management, warning that talks are key to avoiding conflict.

    The relationship between the United States and China is at its lowest point in decades, as they remain deeply divided over everything from the sovereignty of Taiwan to espionage and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

    Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top security summit, Austin said that open lines of communication between US and Chinese defence and military leaders were essential to avoid conflict and bolster stability in the Asia-Pacific, Reuters reports.

    "I am deeply concerned that the PRC (People's Republic of China) has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries," Austin told the meeting in Singapore.

    "The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict."

    China's Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu had this week declined an invitation to meet Austin at the security summit. Li, a general who has been sanctioned by the US, delivers his own speech on Sunday.

    On Friday, the two shook hands on the sidelines of the conference but did not hold detailed talks, the Pentagon said.

    "A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement," Austin said.

    Dialogue between the two countries has stalled since US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a visit to China in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was tracked flying across the United States.

    Liu Pengyu, spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Friday in an emailed statement that communication between China and the US was conducive to a greater mutual understanding.

    "However, now the US says it wants to speak to the Chinese side while seeking to suppress China through all possible means and continue imposing sanctions on Chinese officials, institutions and companies," the statement said.

    China will have bilateral talks with defence chiefs from a dozen countries at the summit, Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, said in comments published by state-backed Chinese newspaper the Global Times on Saturday.

    Caliber.Az

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