Singapore, June 3
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin rebuked China on Saturday for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security summit, Austin said Beijing’s reluctance to talk undermined efforts to maintain peace in a region where the two rivals are increasing their military firepower. “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.
Key to avoiding conflict
I am deeply concerned that the People’s Republic of China has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries. The more we talk, the more we can avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.
Lloyd Austin, secy of defence, us
“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”
A senior Chinese military official struck back, saying the United States was responsible for a breakdown in dialogue by ramping up sanctions on Chinese officials and destabilising the Asia-Pacific with its military presence.
“China-US military relations are faced with difficulties and the responsibility lies entirely on the US side,” Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng told reporters at the summit.
“China attaches importance to developing China-US military relations, and our interactions and communication have never been suspended.”
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, delivered 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. — Reuters
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