U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed “deep concern” over China’s reluctance to participate in military crisis management while attending the Shangri-La Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 3.
In his speech at the summit entitled “U.S. Leadership in the Indo-Pacific Region,” he said, “For responsible defense leaders, any time is a good time to talk.” “The more we talk, the more The more we avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crises or conflicts.”
Austin emphasized that a war in the Taiwan Strait would be devastating and would 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, “conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable”, and will maintain a strong deterrent force of the United States.
He criticized China’s “an alarming number of dangerous intercepts 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 night before, Austin and China’s State Councilor 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 initiative to walk to Li Shangfu’s seat, shaking hands with a smile on his face and having a brief conversation.
Austin said afterwards, “A cordial handshake at a dinner is not a substitute for substantive communication.”
The Pentagon issued a statement stating that the two did not have substantive 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 Chinese official media “Global Times” that the Chinese and American defense ministers shook hands at the dining table due to China’s long history and culture. In contrast, Chinese culture is rich enough to accept greetings from anyone.”
Previously, Li Shangfu, who has been sanctioned by the United States since 2018, declined an invitation to meet with Austin. He is scheduled to deliver a speech entitled “China’s New Security Initiative” at the summit on June 4.
Australian PM calls on US and China to build ‘guardrails’
The relationship between the United States and China has fallen to the lowest point in decades due to the balloon incident, Taiwan and the South China Sea. Reuters pointed out that US military officials have repeatedly requested to establish an open communication channel with China but were rejected.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (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 “guardrails”. He supported US President Biden to “retry” 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 irrevocable actions and responses,” he said.
“Whether a conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere, it’s not just a major power or the location of the conflict that’s affected, it’s damaging to the whole world.”